Rail recovery plan on track, says Mbalula

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the department is hard at work to fulfil the commitment made in May that services in areas that fall under Phase 1 of the recovery plan will be operational by the end of July 2022.

“We identified the Central Line in Cape Town and the Mabopane Line in Tshwane as priority corridors that are essential for the recovery of commuter rail services.

“It was on this basis that we invested R1.4 billion in each of these lines to provide a safe, reliable and affordable service,” Mbalula said.

Speaking after conducting an oversight inspection of the rail reconstruction and recovery on the Central Line in Cape Town on Tuesday morning, Mbalula said he has noted the good progress made in restoring commuter rail services, rehabilitating and upgrading rail infrastructure.

“This corridor was closed in 2019 due to theft and vandalism and the recovery work of the corridor was further hampered by illegal occupations on the rail network during the hard lockdown. I am pleased with the progress made in recovering a number of lines on the Central Line,” Mbalula said.

To achieve reconstruction and recovery, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Mbalula said, had to rebuild infrastructure from the ground up; and vandalised and stolen electrical cables, perway and railway clips have been replaced. This also includes the rehabilitation of five vandalised substations that power the network.

“On each station, PRASA recovered vandalised platforms, station lighting, ablution facilities for commuters and the station building. I am pleased to learn that work is currently underway to refurbish the Bontheuwel and Lavistown stations.

“To safeguard rail infrastructure, we have increased the number of security personnel on the ground to improve safety of our commuters and staff. We remain confident that the integrated security plan will turn the tide against theft and vandalism.

“We have already implemented the plan on the Mabopane and Saulsville Lines and we will give it a national footprint,” Mbalula said.

According to Mbalula, the project has created more than 600 employment opportunities to date, and Prasa has spent almost R500 million towards the recovery of the corridor.

The work which has been done internally by Prasa employees and as well as different contractors include the following: perway, overhead traction electricity, three stations (Bonteheuwel, Lavistown and Heideveld) and security.

The PRASA Western Cape region currently has a total fleet of 30 old train sets. This is complemented by the 13 new Isitimela Sabantu trains that are ready for service. There are currently two old train sets that are operational on the Central Line between Langa and Cape Town.

Mbalula said the resumption of the service on the line is a major milestone, considering the challenges experienced with the relocation of illegal settlements, as well as constant criminal attacks on the infrastructure and security personnel.

“The work to reconstruct the infrastructure destroyed by acts of theft and vandalism is gaining momentum and will enable us to recover commuter rail services within the time lines we had committed to. 

“Our key stakeholders, which include organised labour and communities, have played a critical role in ensuring that the rebuilding of commuter rail capacity moves with the requisite speed,” Mbalula said. – SAnews.gov.za