PRASA reports progress in recovering vandalised rail corridors

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Government is on track to return to service 10 priority corridors that were identified for rehabilitation following the vandalism and the theft of rail infrastructure that took place when the country went into lockdown.

“Through the War Room that we have established and the commitment from our employees, we envision completing the work on the key priority corridors by the end of this calendar year,” Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) acting Group CEO David Mphelo said on Wednesday.

Of the 40 corridors in the country, 17 corridors are operational. In an effort to rehabilitate the corridors that were destroyed, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) commenced with upgrading the rail infrastructure and stations in April 2021.

Ten corridors were identified as a priority based on the volume of passengers per corridor, the demand for the service, the extent of damage, and the time required to recover and rehabilitate the corridor.

“It’s been two years since the catastrophic decimation of our rail infrastructure and stations due to the theft and vandalism of our essential infrastructure, and, to some extent, neglect on our part, resulting in the closure of passenger rail services across the country.

“The recovery programme, though painfully slow, is making steady progress. Work has started in earnest to recover the services. Since implementing the Service Recovery Plan, PRASA has reached some critical milestones in the service recovery programme,” Mphelo said.

In Gauteng, the Mabopane and Saulsville lines to Pretoria and the Vereeniging – Union line are now operational. In the Western Cape, the Northern Corridor between Cape Town - Bellville Stations, the Southern Line to Simonstown as well as the Cape Flats line are operational.

Mphelo said plans to reopen sections of the Central Line that is illegally occupied are at an advanced stage.

“The KwaZulu-Natal region has reintroduced the Merebank to Durban and KwaMashu to Durban services. Work is ongoing to repair the railway infrastructure affected by the recent, devastating floods in that province.

“In the Eastern Cape we have reintroduced services in Gqebherha and East London using the diesel locomotives. On corridors where there was a huge demand for services, we reintroduced limited Diesel-Locomotive services as a stop-gap measure while we put in place plans to recover the electrical infrastructure.

“However, even in those areas, we have now reached a point where we need to start major infrastructure repair work, and as a result, we have had to close lines on some corridors that are ready for electrical repair work to introduce electrical multiple units which form part of our modernisation programme,” he said.

Three lines have been temporarily closed for major repairs on the Naledi - Johannesburg, Johannesburg - Leralla and Pretoria - Pienaarspoort lines.

“I am pleased to announce that the team has made significant strides in ensuring that we meet our deadlines,” he said.

New technologies to reduce copper content cables

Mphelo said the state of stations provide an opportunity to innovate and think outside the box to explore alternative construction technologies for the future that support the agency’s sustainability goals.

“Some stations will no longer be what they used to be as we introduce the new alternative technology. Brick-and-mortar will be a thing of the past.

“New technology is replacing old, in some cases, centuries old. For example, we have new transformer technology, which means our substations can power more trains, and we are modernising our signaling systems to do away with manual signaling, something that should please the Railway Safety Regulator. Our overhead track equipment (OHTE) is carrying less copper content now,” he said.

Mphelo said the agency’s integrated security plan, premised on intelligence gathering, is starting to bear fruit.

“Since the reopening of the Mabopane line, we have had zero incidents of theft and vandalism. Our recovery work is under siege with constant attacks and attempts to steal essential infrastructure.

“We are constantly recovering stolen infrastructure, only for it to be stolen again. The criminals are brazen, and their modus operandi evolves with each waking moment, aided and abetted by some of our employees. However, we are closing the net on PRASA employees colluding with the criminals,” Mphelo said.

To date, the recovery projects in Gauteng alone have created more than 600 job opportunities.

The acting Group CEO made these remarks during a media briefing in Pretoria.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, together with the PRASA Board, joined Mphelo as they gave a comprehensive account of interventions made to recover and stabilise the agency for optimal performance following years of mismanagement and allegations of corruption.

Monitoring progress on reconstruction and recovery work

The Minister and PRASA Board conducted an oversight visit of the closed corridors in Gauteng- Leralla to Johannesburg, Naledi to Johannesburg and Pienaarspoort to Pretoria - to monitor progress made to recover the lines.

“Today we are conducting oversight on the reconstruction and recovery work intended to rehabilitate our infrastructure from perway, overhead traction electricity, sub-stations, signalling and train stations in these corridors.

“We will then build on this to implementation our modernization programme and deploy the new trains across all our corridors. More than 100 of these trains have since been delivered by the Gibela factory and are being deployed on a corridor-by-corridor basis as these become ready to accommodate the new trains,” the Minister said.

He said the rehabilitation of the infrastructure is also supported by the awarding of the general overhaul contract that will enable PRASA to continue maintaining the old train fleet until it is retired and replaced with the new trains.

“The upgrade and repurposing of stations will improve commuter experience and safety,” the Minister said. –