Government is working hard to resume commuter rail services, which were suspended due to destruction and vandalism at the hands of syndicates and opportunistic criminals during the hard lockdown.
With the successful resumption of services on the Pretoria-Pienaarspoort line, Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, has assured the public that work to recover rail services is ongoing in all the rail corridors in the country.
The resumption of services will ensure that South Africans, who have been severely impacted by the suspension of commuter rail services have access to a safe and reliable public transport system.
As part of this year’s October Transport Month (OTM) campaign launch, the Minister boarded a new train from Pienaarspoort in Mamelodi to Pretoria A Station.
The Pretoria-Pienaarspoort line alone has undergone major reconstruction, with the introduction of advanced signalling technology, modernised high-speed circuit breakers, and the use of aluminium wires to counter copper theft.
The service officially resumed with the new trains on 26 September 2022, following approval by the Railway Safety Regulator.
“This is in line with our commitment to return to service this year 10 priority corridors. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is on track to rebuild and recovere these commuter rail corridors, three of which are in Gauteng, with an allocated budget of R2.7 billion,” the Minister said on Monday.
In December 2019, PRASA in Gauteng had to suspend the majority of its electrified train services in the Gauteng North and South regions due to extensive theft and vandalism of the power supply system and other railway infrastructure assets.
This suspension affected in excess of 200 000 commuters that rely on the commuter rail service for their livelihoods.
In April 2021, a programme was designed to recover train services and train Corridor Recovery Programme between:
Pretoria to Pienaarspoort,
Pretoria to Kaalfontein,
Leralla to Johannesburg, and
Naledi to Johannesburg
A diesel service was introduced on the Pretoria to Pienaarspoort corridor before it was closed in May 2022 for major rehabilitation works that included refurbishment of substations.
“Our work of recovering rail services is ongoing in all the rail corridors in the country. This includes lines such as the Naledi to Johannesburg. Work is being accelerated to achieve the limited electrified train service in the area,” Mbalula said.
The eight stations, which are being revamped in preparation for service resumption, are New Canada; Mlamulankunzi, Orlando, Nancefield, Kliptown, Midway, Lenz and Tshiawelo.
“Work is currently underway to recover rail services on the Cape Town central line. This entails the relocation of the illegal settlements that are currently on the rail track and reserve.
“We have recently signed a social compact with all the parties that are involved and affected by the situation on the central line, outlining the roles and responsibilities of each party,” the Minister said.
As part of the October Transport Month campaign, government will visit KwaZulu-Natal to assess the progress on rehabilitating infrastructure that was destroyed by the floods. This will include rail and road infrastructure.
Efforts to improve services at Driving Licence Testing Centres
The Minister said the department’s work with provinces and municipalities to improve the service offering at Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) is beginning to bear fruit, with motorists spending less time in queues.
“We have no doubt that services will improve exponentially with the combination of online services, deployment of smart enrolment technology and the new eye test arrangement.
“We are also strengthening measures that will enable us to uproot corruption and impose heavy penalties on those who continue to flout the rules of the road,” the Minister said.
Mbalula emphasised that road safety remains a critical cornerstone in government’s efforts to arrest the carnage on the roads.
“We continue to implement innovative measures that not only ensure that the law bites, but also inculcate responsible behaviour by all road users,” he said.
The National Assembly recently passed the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, bringing it a step closer to becoming law.
“The strengthening of the regulatory framework, through this amendment bill, will provide us with more instruments to hold the motorists accountable on the road.
“Our work towards classifying traffic policing as a 24-hour, 7-day job is progressing in earnest, with the majority of provinces having taken the required decision,” the Minister said.
The department continues to roll out the Taxi Relief Fund, which was conceptualised to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the taxi industry.
The Minister said the department is working hard to ensure that all qualifying beneficiaries receive the funding.