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Transport minister rejects City of Cape Town’s bid to take over railway services

Transport minister rejects City of Cape Town’s bid to take over railway services
On the train: Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga, Prasa chief executive Hishaam Emeran, and chief executive of Gibela Train Consortium Hector Danisa. (Photo: Tariro Washinyira)

City must just move people off the occupied lines, says Sindiswe Chikunga.

Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga has replied with a flat “no” to plans by the City of Cape Town to take over the passenger rail service in the city. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has no intention of devolving the railway services, she told GroundUp during a visit to the Northern Line on Tuesday.

In an interview during an oversight visit and train ride from Bellville to Eerste River, Chikunga said: “For now we are not in the process of devolving railway services. That is why Prasa is busy building railway services in the Western Cape.”

Chikunga was assessing work done on the Bellville to Eerste River section of the Northern Line. In January, a limited service resumed between Eerste River and Bellville after years of no service. Regional engineering manager Raymond Maseko assured the minister trains would also run to Strand and Stellenbosch by October this year.

Chikunga said all Prasa wanted from the City was to move the people who moved onto the Central Line rail reserves after the line closed in October 2019. “That’s what we want from them, period.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Informal settlements on Metrorail tracks still hinder progress on Cape Town’s Central Line 

“The relocation and provision of houses is not Prasa’s mandate.”

Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga, railway services

Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga shakes hands with Metrorail spokesperson Zinobulali Mihi at Eerste River station. (Photo: Tariro Washinyira)

The City of Cape Town has said that preliminary financial analysis suggested an efficient passenger service would save lower-income households R921-million a year and sustain more than 51,000 jobs. “Our analysis shows there is an urgent need for the National Government to devolve Cape Town’s passenger rail for the City to run,” said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis in a statement in April. “We call on the President and new Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga to ensure the immediate finalisation of the much-delayed National Rail Devolution Strategy so that the City can get the trains running in the interest of all residents,” said Hill-Lewis.

The provincial government is also in favour of shifting the responsibility for passenger rail. Western Cape Minister of Mobility Ricardo Mackenzie told GroundUp the devolution of passenger rail services is approved government policy, with the National Rail Policy White Paper gazetted in May 2022.

“In the meantime, we cannot sit around and wait. I have made it clear that, as the Western Cape Government, restoring rail services for our commuters is a top priority. We are working hard to support and intervene wherever possible to make sure that people can get to work and school with safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable mobility options.”

“While the devolution of rail is likely to be a complex and challenging process, we fully support the policy.”

Joseph Mayson, the Legal Officer of #UniteBehind, said it was clear that devolution would happen. “A national devolution plan is being developed by the Department of Transport, which it says will be complete in 2024. It is clear that devolution will happen, the only question is, “When?”

“There has been progress on some lines in Cape Town and we welcome this. However, two-thirds of the Central Line is still out of service. Many trains are delayed and cancelled. Stations and the old, yellow trains are still unsafe. Prasa’s management and governance, on a national scale, is broken. Over the past decade, it has achieved an average of 21% of its own performance objectives. Last year, it achieved 12.5% of its objectives.

“Devolution to the lowest level of government possible is required in terms of the Constitution, legislation, and policy. It is best for local public transport, including trains, to be owned, managed and operated by the local government. As commuter rail in the Western Cape is almost exclusively within the City of Cape Town’s jurisdiction, we believe that Prasa’s commuter assets and operations should devolve to the City.” DM

First published by GroundUp.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David McCormick says:

    The Minister of Transport is incorrect in that the City of Cape Town (the City) has to move the people off Transnet land. This is Transnet’s responsibility as the City has no jurisdiction over Transnet land. Most National Government Departments have been very poor in maintaining their land and property assets therefore fences have been removed and land and buildings “highjacked”. The value of capital lost to South Africa by the degredation of these National assets is massive but those responsible for Governance do not seem to care.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    What? You want them to give up the PRASA gravy train? Ha! Ha! Ha!

    • Eliot Powell says:

      The PRASA gravy train is fast becoming gruel. Only when it becomes a watery trickle will they (Prasa) lose interest. Should be a few months, then.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Prasa wants the credit for fixing something they broke and for the city of Cape Town/DA to get the trouble of being called names for removing the people settled on their tracks. They could never have settled had the trains been running. Prasa must do it’s own dirty work.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    I can’t even read this story I’m so enraged. The animosity of ANC ministers towards Cape Town is infantile, immature, and plain stupid. But what else is to expect from these abject failures. We, the people of CT just want the trains to be safe and to run on time. Continuously. The previous Minister, aka Fear Fokol, could not manage in the least and this one, whatever her name is, won’t either. We should sue them, relentlessly and ruthlessly. Make them personally pay for their messes. That’s the only option now, short of simply talking it.

  • David Pennington says:

    its only because they do not want the world to see that the white run section of society functions correctly and everything they touch turns to shit

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Clearly the minister has supped at the trough !
    No wonder she doesn’t want to let go – she’ll get no handouts from Cape Town.

  • Steven D says:

    Now what’s the real reason the ANC refuses to hand over the management of the Western Cape or even Cape Town’s rails to the DA, which would very obviously improve the entire situation in a matter of a year or two at most? The answer’s easy! Because the voters would soon realise that the ANC is entirely bereft of any kind of merit or ability to serve its voters!

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