SA trains set for huge upgrade - Prasa

2012-06-20 09:45

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Zuma tests public transport

2012-06-15 08:17

Watch President Jacob Zuma board a Metrorail train during rush hour to listen to the problems that anger commuters. WATCH

Cape Town - The state and safety of South Africa's decades-old passenger trains came under the spotlight at Parliament on Tuesday.

"Metrorail trains fail in all respects to meet international standards, except their heating system," Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) chief executive Lucky Montana told MPs.

This included modern safety features such as "automatic train protection" systems and the "enduring crashworthiness" of passenger coaches.

Briefing members of the public services select committee, Montana warned that many of the country's passenger coaches - almost all of which are between 20 and 50 years old - would soon become unsafe to use.

"If we had our wish, we would be scrapping these trains in the next three years, because they will not be safe to carry people beyond [this date]," he said.

Prasa Rail, a division of the agency, uses 4 638 coaches in its urban Metrorail operations and 1 223 on its long-distance Shosholoza Meyl.

New rolling stock

According to a document tabled at Tuesday's briefing, the average age of Metrorail coaches is 40 years, while the average age of coaches in the Shoshloza Meyl fleet is 33 years.

Government plans to invest heavily in new rolling stock over the next 20 years, acquiring 7 224 "new modern coaches".

Montana said a feasibility study - involving Prasa, the National Treasury, and the departments of transport and public enterprises - had now been completed.

"It shows that this country requires 7 224 new modern coaches over a period of 20 years. The first 3 600 coaches will be bought in the first 10 years."

Montana said a request for proposals for the design of the coaches had been put out to certain companies on April 19 this year.

"We've asked them to give us a train that will run on our lines for the next 40 years... and the companies are busy writing up their proposals.... Come November this year, we will announce a preferred bidder that we will negotiate with and reach a conclusion."

Such a conclusion - including signing a contract - would be completed by the middle of next year.

Montana said that given the state of the coaches currently operated by Prasa Rail, many were asking why new coaches were not being bought immediately.

"We can go and buy the train overseas... and we can have them next year. But we've made a choice... We must use this investment to revitalise our rail engineering industry. So these trains are not going to be imported.

"They are going to be built [in South Africa]... We are saying build the plant [to manufacture the coaches] here. A total of 65% of that train must be components that are manufactured here."

This would revive the industry and allow the country to "design, manufacture, and export trains in the future".

Montana said the first train would roll out of the new manufacturing plant in 2014/15.

"We expect the first train to be tested in 2015."

He said the programme would create "about 65 000 jobs". It would also provide an opportunity to train a new generation of railway engineers and artisans.


On Black Economic Empowerment, Montana said there was a "very huge stake" for BEE in the process.

"There is a huge stake, between 26% and 40%."

Montana also suggested there would be a scheme to involve Prasa employees in the programme.

"They must be given a stake in this process."

Prasa would announce in the next fortnight "how this BEE programme is going to unfold".

Montana also told MPs that Prasa would be investing R7bn in new, modern rail signalling systems.

The agency would be investing almost R26bn into rolling stock and infrastructure development programmes over the period 2012/13 to 2014/15.

Referring to two major train accidents involving Prasa-operated trains last year, Montana said the agency had been very lucky.

"In both accidents... we lost only a driver. We have been very fortunate. We could have had a catastrophe."

He said human error was the cause of all recent train accidents, and not old equipment.

"You would expect that in an old system [like ours] that the cause of the accident would be equipment, signal, or brake failure. But no. All the accidents we've had in the past three years have been due to human error... either negligence or someone not following procedure."

Read more on:    metrorail  |  prasa  |  lucky montana  |  transport

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Partner Content
Travel Dreams? Where would you rather be right now?

Partnered: Whether you're missing family overseas, dreaming of family adventures or romantic hideaways we all have that one place we'd rather be right now - but have you thought about the best way to get there?

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.