Trains could operate between the Central Line and the Cape Town CBD in Cape Town as early as September, said new administrator for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) Bongisizwe Mpondo. Speaking at a briefing on Thursday, he also said October could potentially see 20 new trains added to the embattled Cape rail network.
Mpondo held a meeting with rail advocacy groups in Khayelitsha — an area affected by the Central Line shutdown between Kapteinsklp (Mitchell’s Plain) and Chris Hani (Khayelitsha) – followed by a media briefing. His first briefing in Cape Town since his appointment 45 days ago by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. Mpondo was appointed administrator in December after Mbalula decided to dissolve the interim board after a disastrous appearance before Parliament’s Scopa watchdog committee.
Khayelitsha has not seen trains since 1 November 2019 when Metrorail suspended services due to “extensive vandalism”. When Mpondo said the earliest date operations could resume would be in September, it directly contradicted his earlier statement in January that services could resume in six months.
Mpondo and Western Cape manager Richard Walker told the media plans were in place over the 12 months of Mpondo’s appointment: a focus on stability within three months, then within six months an acceleration of programmes to fix security issues like fencing. The 12-month goal would be the “commissioning of certain programmes” such as the rolling stock recapitalisation programme aimed at refurbishment and getting new locomotives.
Walker said the Western Cape needs 88 trainsets to run efficiently. At present only 33 trainsets were operating.
But are these plans realistic? Damage to Metrorail property due to arson alone stands at R381.6-million, Metrorail told Daily Maverick earlier this week.
“We have to be realistic in what we can do,” said Mpondo, adding the officials responsible for fixing the entity must have a clear understanding of the struggling entity’s financial and operational state.
Additionally, Walker said there were plans to bring 20 new trainsets into the system by October 2020 — if all went to plan. These trains, Walker said, would be subject to conditions from the Railway Safety Regulator which will determine if the entity will obtain a permit to operate on the rail network.
According to Walker, the regulator had already given permission for eight new trains to be transported to Cape Town from Nigel near Johannesburg where the new “People’s Trains” are manufactured. DM
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