The Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Ndzimande, on Thursday made sweeping announcements in an attempt to put the struggling Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) back on the right track.
Nzimande seems to have had enough of PRASA’s inability to provide an integrated, effective, reliable, safe and cost effective public transport system. “On numerous occasions, I had meetings with the Chairperson of the Board and the Department, led by the Acting Director General, I had follow-up meetings with the Management of PRASA raising the same issue of improving PRASA’s operations, including derailments and the concerns on the security of commuters and well as our rail infrastructure,” said the Minister.
Nzimande highlighted the government’s commitment to move commuters and freight from the roads to rail and blamed the apartheid government for the poor state of commuter rail services due to “40 years of disinvestment.” He indicated that since 1994 billions of rands have been spent to turnaround Metrorail to be a mass based transport carrier, but more needs to be done to turn around Metrorail to become the transporter government wants.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, whilst on the campaign trail recently got first-hand experience when the Metrorail train he boarded en route from Mabopane to the Pretoria CBD was delayed for two hours. Ramaphosa instructed Nzimande to urgently resolve the challenges plaguing PRASA after his ordeal, which is a daily occurrence experienced by commuters.
Nzimande will appoint a team of organisational or performance experts to undertake a 6-8 week organisational analysis of PRASA as part of the first phase of a two phased approach to resolve PRASA’s ills. The team will submit a factual report to the minister focusing on key factors that would have led to the failed implementation of PRASA’s Turn-Around Strategies.
Based on the report and as part of phase two, PRASA will appoint of a turn-round execution team under the direction of the Department of Transport. This high-level Team will monitor and report progress to both the Board and the Minister. Nzimande also announced the extension of the current PRASA Board term by six (6) months before its expiry on the 30th April 2019.
The Board should ensure that properly vetted candidates are appointed in advertised executives’ vacancies. The board has also been directed to improve reliability of trains and trains cancellations by 60% and 41% improvement in trains’ delays with revised train timetable as per train availability.
The Northern Cape commuters currently use PRASA’s Shosholoza Meyl that provides long distance rail travel between Pretoria and Cape Town. This train is notorious for long delays and not being clean. The management of the rail service has announced that extra trains will be deployed over the Eater holiday period.