South Africa


Still no clarity on Cape Town’s halted Central Line

Still no clarity on Cape Town’s halted Central Line
Commuters rush for a train at Chris Hani Station on the Central Line in Cape Town on 25 June 2019. (Archive photo: Suné Payne)

Two additional train lines could resume services in Cape Town by August, said Bongisizwe Mpondo, the administrator of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa. But the halted Central Line – one of the key lines in Cape Town – may see only a limited bus service operational by November.

Officials from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) faced tough questions in the Western Cape legislature on Tuesday afternoon, especially on the Central Line in Cape Town – where rail services leave a lot to be desired. 

Prasa administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo, acting Western Cape Prasa manager Raymond Maseko and new Prasa Rail CEO Nosipho Damasane addressed the legislature’s transport oversight committee on the strategy for the agency’s turnaround plan. Previously, Mpondo had addressed journalists and Parliament on similar plans – but on a more national level. Read those plans here and here.

Tuesday’s briefing was the first for Mpondo and Maseko to appear before this legislature. The Central Line, as usual, was a key topic. Services were suspended in October 2019 – for the second time in a year – and committee members from the provincial legislature wanted to know more about plans to resume operations on the line. 

The Central Line runs from the Cape Town Station to the Chris Hani Station in Khayelitsha and to Kapteinsklip Station in Mitchells Plain and has suffered vandalism, train delays, overcrowding and arson attacks. 

During his 2020 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa allocated the agency R1.4-billion to fix the Central Line and another R1.4-billion to fix the Mabopane Line in Gauteng.

Ramaphosa: ‘A key priority is to fix commuter rail’

At the briefing, Mpondo said the rail agency planned to provide an interim bus service along the Central Line corridor. This service was initially planned to begin in August, but this has now, because of Covid-19 limitations, been revised to November. 

Mpondo said that a limited-service resumption on the Central Line had been due to start by September or October 2020, but this had been revised to February or March 2021. Mpondo said the entity’s resumption is a “risk-adjusted strategy”, meaning the time-frames will be reviewed “as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the procurement and construction programme is not fully known at this stage”. 

When asked about the resumption of other lines, Mpondo said there were plans for the Cape Flats and the Northern Line to be operational by August. Currently, only the Southern Line is operational, along 13 stations between Cape Town Station and Retreat Station. 

Mpondo said an announcement would be made “soon” on the augmentation of services with the brand new “People’s Trains”, of which two were launched on the eve of the 2019 national and provincial elections by Ramaphosa. 

Eight new trains were due to be launched for the Cape rail network, but none of them are operational. DM


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