Government makes progress in recovering rail services

While commuter rail services have deteriorated due to criminal syndicates over the years, government is making significant strides in restoring passenger rail services that are reliable, safe, modern and affordable.

‘To date, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has restored 31 of the 40 lines nationally, with over 263 of the 463 stations that were vandalised refurbished to basic functionality,’ Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said on Friday.

The Minister made these remarks after taking a trip on a train from the Nancefield to Johannesburg line, which was reopened recently.

In Gauteng, PRASA has recovered six more lines that were targeted for the 2023/24 financial year.

Trains are now running from Hercules to Belle Ombre, Pretoria to Kaalfontein, Leralla to Germiston, Germiston to Johannesburg, Germiston to Elsburg, Johannesburg to Naledi, Johannesburg to Nancefield, Johannesburg to Florida, connecting the three great municipalities of Gauteng: Pretoria, Ekurhuleni, and the City of Joh
annesburg – all the way to the West Rand.

‘I am also pleased to tell you that since the recovery of the passenger rail services in the 2020/2021 financial year, over 70 million passenger trips have been made to date, from a low base of 7.4 million passenger trips made in the 2020/21 financial year. That is more than a tenfold increase and that makes us proud.

‘Since the recovery of the Nancefield line, this service alone is making over 1 000 passenger trips per day. Though we are not where we should be, this marks a significant improvement, and illustrates the demand for the service. It also tells the story that people are gradually choosing rail as their preferred mode of transport,’ the Minister said.

PRASA anticipates that the numbers will steadily increase as more lines and stations are reopened.

‘With the reopening of the Nancefield to Johannesburg railway line, we are seeing the transformative power of commuter rail services.

‘Residents from Klipspruit, Mlamlakunzi, Sebokeng, Orange Farm, can now
travel to industrial parks in Braamfontein, Germiston and various destinations by train. We are connecting people to places of work and economic opportunities – affordably.

‘For soccer fans who enjoy watching games at the stadium, they can now travel to their favourite stadium via the Orlando station,’ she said.

Chikunga said commuters have expressed that they are relieved now that the trains are back and can get to their various destinations on time, without the stress and uncertainty that came with the old PRASA train services.

‘The people I have interacted with through this recovery journey appreciate the new high-tech trains, Isitimela Sabantu that we are rolling out on our corridors, proudly manufactured right at our backyard in Dunnottar, Gauteng.

‘The people love the security features that come with the trains, they love the automated doors, the voice command that tells them of the next stopping stations and the air-conditioning system. More importantly, they appreciate the savings they make on tra
velling costs. They can now put more money back into their pockets,’ the Minister said.

Chikunga said by providing affordable and efficient transportation options, government has empowered marginalised groups, improved access to opportunities, and fostered greater social and economic inclusion.

‘Our people now have access to comfortable, modern trains that get them to their various destinations on time with the comfort of knowing that there is security onboard the train and on the station platforms.

‘Work continues on these lines and the stations. Soon, residents from Katlehong, Springs, Midway, Roodepoort to Residentia, will be able to access these services.

‘Our work now is to increase the frequency of the trains and reduce the waiting times for the next train to arrive. It is what they are asking for. The National signalling project has started in earnest,’ the Minister said.

The new modern signalling system will ensure that trains run frequently and safely and this is while work continues to rehabili
tate the stations.

‘As national government, we made a commitment to not only empower our people but transform their lives. The investment made through our capital projects ensure that the economy continues to be the beacon of hope for many South Africans.

‘Through the passenger rail capital projects, around R30 billion has been invested over the last two years to stimulate the economy, and over 5000 jobs have been created nationally just this last financial year,’ the Minister said.

Another 312 jobs were created just on the rebuilding of the Nancefield line and16 local Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) appointed, boosting the local economy in these areas.

‘The skills and on-job experience acquired go a long way in improving the lives of our people. The reopening of train services has also breathed in new life to the secondary/informal economy that was almost decimated when train services were suspended.

‘Traders can now earn a living at our stations selling their products to commuters and visito
rs of various stations. We are making a positive impact on their well-being,’ the Minister said.

Source: South African Government News Agency