NEWS & ANALYSIS

DA railway plan will improve safety on trains – Manny de Freitas

MP says commuters have for years been subjected to horrendous conditions and lack of choice

DA’s railway plan will improve safety on trains and protect commuters from job losses

21 June 2018

Today, the DA presented our railway plan to the Competition Commission. This follows the Commission instituting a market inquiry into land-based public passenger transport to ascertain the general state of competition in the sector.

South African train commuters have for years been subjected to horrendous railway conditions and a lack of choice. From opportunistic criminals who prey on vulnerable passengers, to an unreliable railway system as a result of vandalism and a lack of resources.

This has also resulted in a considerable decrease in rail passenger numbers over the past decade. South Africans have clearly lost faith in their public railway services.

The failure of the public railway system lies squarely at the feet of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). The agency has been beleaguered by mismanagement and corruption. In addition to this, it’s failure to invest in Metrorail has further exacerbated the troubles in railway services.

The challenges in rail industry have a direct impact on job security. Workers are often late to their place of employment due to the chronic delays of trains which have resulted in job losses.

The DA‘s transport policy will create a railway system which is safe, well managed, put commuters first, and ensure job security. The plan is based on four aspects:

1. Stabilising and modernising the current rail system

The Public Protector report, “Derailed”, exposed the true extent of the rot at PRASA. The failure of governance at the agency has had a direct impact of public confidence.

In the past 10 years, PRASA lost nearly 60% of their clients - from 2.7 million passengers per day in 2008 to 1.2 million to date. One of the reasons for this decline is the issue of security.

What is required is a dedicated Railway Police service to take over security operations at train stations.

An urgent update is also required to ascertain the progress which has been made in upgrading the current signal system so that no manual signal is used. This is to prevent further unnecessary instances of crashes and derailment.

2. Merge Transnet and PRASA under the Department of Transport

This means all rail-related passenger and freight services should become the direct responsibility of the Minister of Transport. This will streamline decision making and improve planning and integration.

3. Ceding control of Metrorail services to Metros

This process will see Metropolitan governments take over Metrorail functions gradually which will ensure integrated public transportation systems and better governance.

In October last year, the Cape Town City Council gave the DA-run metro approval to proceed with its plans to take over the management of the City’s railway services. The Western Cape Government and the City have already committed additional security personal thus ensuring increased protection of commuters and infrastructure at risk.

4. Diversifying Ownership

While the state should retain ownership of the infrastructure, the DA calls for the gradual privatisation of some railway operations. This will increase competition and choice for transportation in the rail sector.

The DA’s plan will not only enforce integrated public transportation planning but it will also lead to job security as there will be an efficient transport system devoid of crime.

We remain committed to the vision of a well-run, corruption free and accountable rail transportation system that puts the safety of South Africans first.

Issued by Manny de FreitasDA Shadow Minister of Transport, 21 June 2018