Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says he has written to Minister Fikile Mbalula asking that a Working Committee be set up to spearhead and manage the rail devolution process.

Hill-Lewis says the task team would be comprised of officials from the City of Cape Town, the Department of Transport, and PRASA.

The Mayor says the Committee would be tasked with setting in action the details of the rail devolution process, which was outlined in the National Rail Policy White Paper gazetted by Mbalula in April this year.

Read Hill-Lewis’ complete statement here.

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The City of Cape Town has confirmed the date for the start of the feasibility study to take over the train services in the city.

The study will commence on 1 July 2022 and the municipality says it will take place  “with stipulated deadlines, deliverables, regular feedback and reporting to the City on the progress of the work.”

Mayor Geordin-Hill Lewis says: “The study will focus on an approach that is feasible, incremental, and structured. Taking over passenger rail from the National Government is a huge undertaking.”

“We must fully understand what this entails, especially when it comes to the costs as passenger rail in Cape Town has imploded to a level where it is barely functioning. The whole system – from the planning to the operations and management – will need to be overhauled so that it can be the backbone of public transport and the study will assist us in how to approach this takeover,” he adds.

The City of Cape Town says the state of the rail network in the city is dire: ” The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (PRASA) has neglected passenger rail for decades. A lack of investment, maintenance, vandalism and crime have led to a loss of assets, illegal occupation of rail reserves, and a collapse of most services. In 1995 the network of 270km was served by 95 train sets, by December 2019 there were 44 sets in operation. The central line, the most popular and needed line serving the metro-south east, is not operating.”

More detail about the study has also been given. The feasibility study aims to:

  • Develop a feasible, incremental and structured approach for an improved passenger rail service in terms of planning, operations, and management.
  • Identify and evaluate financing mechanisms for the provision of operations and capital investment.
  • Determine the financial implications for the restoration and sustainability of passenger rail services.
  • The team undertaking the study consists of experts in rail operations and rail engineering; project management; transport planning; strategists in the rail business, facilities and asset management; a transport economist; a legal specialist, and a rail safety and security specialist.

Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Mobility, Councillor Rob Quintas says: “A critical component is the financial viability of the City taking over passenger rail, and our ability to afford and maintain the system. Budget allocation and subsidisation will require detailed and ongoing engagement with the National Department of Transport and the Treasury.”

In a statement Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said he will have the final say as to who operates the train service in Cape Town if not PRASA. “The White Paper on National Rail Policy, recently approved by Cabinet acknowledges the importance of devolving public transport functions to the lowest level of government. To this end, the Policy requires the development and approval of a Devolution Strategy for Commuter Rail to guide the assignment of the commuter rail function at municipal level,” said Mbalula.

He added: “The National Land Transport Act of 2009 (NLTA) provides for service level planning by municipalities for passenger rail service on a corridor basis. The law imposes a number of obligations on a municipality in integrating passenger rail planning in its integrated public transport networks.”

 

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has announced the first steps in a bid to take over the management of the rail network in Cape Town.

He made the announcement during a speech during a full Council sitting this morning.

Hill Lewis says National Treasury has given the go ahead for a feasibility study to take place, to see how the Municipality can take over from PRASA to run the trains.

He says the National Government’s Rail service has reached crisis point in Cape Town, with just 33 operational train sets in 2020 compared to 95 trains sets in 1995.

What Hill Lewis announced:

  • City of Cape Town is now ready to proceed with a detailed feasibility study for the devolution of the metropolitan rail function to this metro.
  • The City has already issued the tender and the work will begin as soon as the new financial year begins on 1 July this year.
  • The Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Mobility,  Rob Quintas and his team will ensure not a second is wasted during this process.
  • Hill Lewis says in recent days there has been a sea-change in policy statements from the national government – they are now seeing regular and substantive verbal commitments to privatization in South Africa, from the national government itself.
  • A letter received from the Minister of Finance this week not only gives the City the green light to conduct the passenger rail feasibility study, but fully endorses the intended policy direction in favour of devolution of this critical function.
  • In the letter, Minister Godongwana expresses the view on behalf of the National Treasury that a study of this kind is essential and should be carried out by the City.
  • Furthermore, that a municipality should be assigned a function by agreement, and as long as there is adequate capacity at the municipal level to perform the function.
  • The Minister further added that the policy intent in the White Paper on Transport Policy and the draft White Paper on Rail Policy, is for public transport to be devolved to the lowest level.

This is a big deal, because up until now, the national government had tried to block the feasibility study. There is a new wind blowing, we hope.

I want to thank Minister Godongwana for the national government’s encouraging and supportive letter.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has committed R7 billion to be invested in improving train services.

The Minister says PRASA in the Western Cape has so far been able to re-establish 5 of the Mother City’s largest train services.

The Southern Line, the Retreat to Fish Hoek service and the Fish Hoek to Simon’s Town services have been in operation since last year.

Mbalula says the Cape Town to Bellvile and Cape Town via Pinelands railway service should be operational again by March.

Get the latest updates here.

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PRASA in the Western Cape has committed itself to refurbish and upgrade 39 of the province’s train stations in the current financial year.

According to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, 5 of these stations will be upgraded by the Western Cape Region.

The Minister visited Cape Town this morning as part of an oversight visit to gauge the progress of the stations’ refurbishment.

Mbalula says the majority of the stations have been severely vandalized.

The Minister says the aim is to give Capetonians access to quality and reliable train services.

Get the latest information here.

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