Mind the gap: commuters in for a long wait

2018-01-14 06:03
One of the swanky new trains. Picture: Deon Raath

One of the swanky new trains. Picture: Deon Raath

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South Africans will still have to wait a while for a ride on one of Prasa’s 600 new railway carriages, acquired at a cost of R59bn, because the trains are too tall for the existing infrastructure.

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) last year took 18 of these trains, manufactured in Brazil, into service on a 50.5km route between Pretoria and Mamelodi.

Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani told City Press’ sister publication Rapport that they knew from inception that the project would require changes to railway lines and stations.

But Prasa received a few additional technical surprises which are expected to significantly delay the project. In many cases, it’s just not as simple as raising the platforms and making them bigger, to close the dangerous gap between the platform and the train.

While the decision to buy the trains was taken as early as 2011 and the first of the carriages arrived in South Africa in 2015, they could only be put into service last year.

Prasa had to replace all the overhead cables and the old railway tracks on the Mamelodi route with a new sort of track, and the drainage system on the railway lines and at stations had to be rebuilt.

The platform and the seven stations on the route had to be completely reconfigured to comply with the Railway Safety Regulator’s requirements.

Zenani said the stations were built in the 1970s, which is why there were so many problems.

Many of the stations will have to be closed for a year for the upgrades. The Mamelodi route was closed for a year and 91 000 commuters had to make different arrangements.

Vuyiswa Tlomatsane, constructions director at Gibela, the consortium that won the tender to manufacture the next 580 train carriages domestically, said their factory in Dunnottar is 82% complete. They are working full steam to deliver the first of the carriages by the end of the year.

Steve Harris, general secretary of the United National Transport Union, said he does not know how Prasa is going to convince commuters to allow it to close some of its busiest routes.

“The public does not understand how the integration works and how they are going to benefit from it. They also don’t care.

“The only way to handle the situation is to arrange alternative transportation, such as buses. But Prasa doesn’t have the funds.” – Johan Eybers, Rapport

Read more on:    prasa  |  transport

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