Western Cape Government develops strategy to restore collapsed rail service
Media release by Bonginkosi Madikizela Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works
Rail passengers in the Western Cape currently face an impossible situation of having either no rail service or an unreliable service.
Travel times are long and planning around the commute is difficult. This not only undermines the dignity of our residents, but it also makes accessing important economic opportunities even more difficult. It is therefore critical that we do everything possible to fix the rail network in this province.
The Western Cape Government has been working closely with the national state owned entity responsible for rail services, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), to assist in the restoration of the collapsed rail service in the City of Cape Town and the broader province.
Earlier, the Province participated through the establishment of the Rail Enforcement Unit in the expansion of security services for the rail network. The Province contributed both financially and in terms of planning and organisation.
We are once again providing support.
The Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) has made R10 million available and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PRASA to cooperate and coordinate efforts for the purposes of improving passenger rail services, operations and management, infrastructure and assets, information and monitoring, and safety and security on the entire rail network. The period of the agreement is from the date of signature, 28th May 2020 to 31st March 2022.
This workplan, in line with the requirements of the MoU, details the specific intervention that will see vegetation control in rail reserves, yards and infrastructure assets within the Metrorail Western Cape region.
Currently rail reserves, yards and Infrastructure assets (substations, relay rooms, etc.) are overgrown due to the non-award of vegetation control contracts within PRASA. Vegetation close to, and on railway tracks and infrastructure assets, currently:
- Interferes with operational activities (obscures signals, signs, tracks, etc.),
- Interferes with signal wire runs and overhead power cables,
- Interferes with maintenance activities,
- Adversely affects drainage,
- Poses a safety risk to pedestrians crossing railway lines,
- Introduces a significant fire hazard, especially during the dry summer season,
- Poses a security risk (fosters crime and vagrancy and impedes security measures), and
- Greatly reduces the train drivers’ line-of-sight and visibility.
The control and eradication of vegetation in the railway reserve is critical to ensure a safe environment for the operation of trains.
In addition to the environmental and technical rationale, this vegetation clearing programme also supports a key priority of job creation and has created short term work opportunities for 80 people. It also supports small enterprises through the use of small-scale contractors.
The immediate focus areas for this project will be:
- Southern Line: Cape Town to Simons Town
- Northern Line: Salt River to Bellville
- Central Line: Cape Town to Mutual / Langa / Pinelands
- Cape Flats Line: Maitland to Heathfield
The total expected workforce, which will be made up of various skilled labour, includes weed cutting teams; brush cutter operators with full PPE, workers collecting and disposing of cut material and litter, tree cutting teams, and workers cutting with slashers among others.
So much more can be achieved if we can continue to work together in the interests of the people who cannot continue to live without a functioning rail service. My Department is therefore working together with PRASA on a plan to relocate the informal structures on the tracks to get the Central Line up and running again. Cooperative governance is key.