Prasa modernises rail system

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

By Nosihle Shelembe

Pretoria – As the country marks Transport Month throughout October, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) says it’s determined to deliver a modern, safe and reliable train service for its commuters.

The agency says this will be achieved through the state-of-the-art Gauteng Rail Nerve Centre (GNC) which was recently launched in Tembisa by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters.  

The centre will act as a signalling control centre for Prasa and will enable operators to monitor all passenger train activities in Gauteng.

Authorities say the aim of the centre is to address Prasa’s challenge of railway infrastructure and technology that had reached the end of its design lifespan and poor signalling system, among others.

Prasa Director Mashilo Matlala says the centre is the answer to years of under-investment in rail infrastructure.

“It is the answer to Prasa’s ambition to roll out the train system of the future and to deliver a world class metro service,” says Matlala.

With the new centre in operation, train commuters can expect high levels of safety because depots and stations will now be monitored through closed-circuit television.

Metrorail customers will also be able to communicate with the centre as it will be connected with every station in the country.

“We are putting a system that will give us about three minutes following each other, for the next train to arrive,” Prasa Executive Strategic Asset Development Piet Sebola said.

Sebola says the trains will be faster as the speed will be improved to the level of 120 kilometres an hour. Currently some of the trains are confined to running at about 70 kilometres an hour.

Prasa has invested in 600 trains and they are expected to arrive in the country soon.

Transport Minister Peters says government will be spending about R51 billion on new rail rolling stock and R4 billion on new hybrid locomotives in the next five years

As part of the preparation for the new rolling stock, upgrades of stations and depots to the tune of R2.2 billion are being undertaken throughout the country.

The GNC will consolidate eight control centres across the provinces and will also house the maintenance teams, such as electrical personnel to allow officials to attend to power failure immediately.

Built over a period of two years, the centre has cost about R155 million with 180 jobs created during construction.

Sebola says Prasa is currently equipping the building with all the proper software so that operations can resume without any further delay.

Other features in the building include a gym facility, medical room, dining area, training room, media room and a biometric access system.

“This investment is one of many responses that we do have at Prasa in making sure that we deliver a rail system of the future as we move forward.

“Indeed a journey to create a modern passenger rail system has begun. In recent times we intensified our efforts to make sure that the dream and bright future of South African railways does become a reality,” he says.

South Africa has not made investments in its rail infrastructure in almost 50 years.

Minister Peters says the centre will enhance Prasa’s ability to accelerate safety citing past incidents of trains colliding into each other.

Gauteng Transport and Roads MEC Ismail Vadi says the staff of Prasa will be trained on how to run the system which will be integrated with the Gautrain system to ensure that the entire railway network in the province is monitored.

“We hoping in the New Year the old centre will be decommissioned and then the new centre will be operational.

“We are hoping that in the next few months a technical team can get together so that in the shortest possible time we can have a birds eye view of the entire rail network, both Gautrain and Metrorail within the centre,” says Vadi.

The programme to improve the rail transport system for commuters will also be rolled out in Durban and the Western Cape at a later stage.    

This year’s Transport Month is being celebrated under the theme: “Together we move South Africa Forward.” – SAnews.gov.za

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