SA trains set for huge upgrade - Prasa

2012-06-20 09:45

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."

  • fussed.anderson - 2012-06-20 10:20

    E train scandel comming up. They have been well coached in this

  • spartanx93 - 2012-06-20 10:49

    With BEE involve this project will take far more than 20 years to fulfill.

  • Tony Lapson - 2012-06-20 10:51

    Here comes another multi million upgrade on something that could have been maintained.

      fussed.anderson - 2012-06-20 12:30

      Who is going to TRAIN this lot

  • Aziza - 2012-06-20 10:59

    i wonder which government officials are gonna benefit from this BEE'nessness....and i hope that long-distance covers Limpopo as well.. too much traffic on the N1 to PLK..

  • Frank - 2012-06-20 11:02

    This is going to be just like the toll roads and arms deals: cronies will be given the contracts to build sub-quality trains, there will be corruption and bribes, and there will be massive overspend. All aboard the new gravy train!! The sad thing is the taxi groups and a minority of fools will destroy the brand new trains as soon as they can. This is how African mentality works, if you don't like something you just break it. On the upside, if by some miracle we can get new trains and an upgraded public transport system it will be fantastic for the country.

  • Tanduxolo Nguza - 2012-06-20 11:36

    this will do good for our economy(reliability,safety and efficiency of our trains) and employment opportunities, lets hope they pull it off!

  • - 2012-06-20 12:01

    Ah, I see e-train-tolle-gates being built. All trains will be late as each passenger will have to find money to pay at each toll, unless they can prove that they got to the train station by minibus or are a member of Cosatu which will have e-shares that they don't know about in the company that will build the trains. The other frustrated passengers will just go on burning trains as they have no other way of escaping the tolls.

  • kseyffert - 2012-06-20 12:22

    And just who's bright idea is this? I love it! Lets just hope that this time BEE actually works and is not just another way for the public to be ripped off once again.

  • Pietrov - 2012-06-20 12:41

    The BEE participants will be Chancelor House, Cosatu, Zuma's wives companies and other well-connected cadres.

  • Pietrov - 2012-06-20 12:43

    So the aim is to create 45 trains per year. By the time 5 years have passed, the estimated cost will have escalated to 25 Billion rand and the number of trains produced will be behind schedule. Watch this space.

  • rebecca.robyn - 2012-06-20 12:45

    Shame man, by the comments I can see why we are one of unhappiest nations according to a previous report-there's just no silver lining...I for one am optimistically (some would probably say foolishly?) happy about this little piece of news. The trains on the Cape Flats lines are \r\nin appaLling state-of course through humans being inconsiderate towards their fellow men, which is one of the reasons I went out and bought a jaloppie, so crossing my fingers that it does happen without any hitches...or scandals

  • Irene - 2012-06-20 12:47

    Hope none of the new trains run late ...........

  • alex.richards.94064 - 2012-06-20 13:25

    E gravee train coming to you soon. Comrades get on or stay poor. hope SARS will be monitoring asset growth of people involved especially after this headline:

  • willie.vorster - 2012-07-06 10:50

    What is wrong with you guys? This is part of the reason why our country is in such a state. A flood of negativity. Do you not realise that a positive outlook is required in order to achieve a positive outcome. I know we have problems with corruption, etc., but instead of sitting and moaning, be positive and do something about it.

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