Prasa welcomes govt investment in revamp plan

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pretoria - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has welcomed government's budget allocation of R97 billion towards the new Rolling Stock Programme. 

Prasa's operational divisions, Metrorail and Passenger Mainline (Shosholoza Meyl), would get 8 600 new coaches (equal to 718 new train sets) and 2000 new locomotives (diesel engines) respectively.

Prasa is expecting delivery of the first batch of trains in three years time, in time for the replacement of approximately 2 200 obsolete coaches, almost half of the operating fleet of 4 600, whose average age is 36 years.

"A significant number of our trains are due for retirement between 2013 and 2015. The age profile and the fleet introduced 40 years ago is not viable anymore technologically, and if we do not urgently replace the rolling stock, Metrorail will face certain collapse," said Lucky Montana, Group CEO of Prasa. 

Under its 1994 mandate, Prasa, then still operating as the SARCC, arrested the decline in Metrorail services and stabilised passenger rail services and between 2004 and 2010, spent R7 billion for the refurbishment of 2000 coaches in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. 

"If we did not intervene and stabilise the decline in Metrorail, we would not be speaking of passenger rail services today," added Montana.

Prasa has acknowledged, however, that the stabilisation and the R7 billion refurbishments were not enough to improve the customer experience on passenger rail services in line with world standards.

"We spent R23 million just to keep the service running, while Metrorail still does not deliver a world class service," he said. "What we need is new rolling stock urgently, that will be the deciding factor in improving our customer experience and elevating rail as the backbone of public transportation."

According to Prasa, the next generation of rolling stock must reflect current and future trends in technology and management, while also facilitating the following objectives, among others: creating sustainable industrialisation and securing local content, reducing overall subsidy requirements in the medium term, and ultimately reduce cost and subsidies per passenger and supporting job creation.

This also includes providing service performance that is safe, reliable and affordable and breaking the cycle of deterioration of rolling stock. - BuaNews