The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has attained another important milestone in its mission to repair the passenger rail network and restore services with the restoration of train services on the Naledi-Johannesburg route.
“The completion of the rebuilding and resumption of service on the Naledi line accounts for the 13th corridor recovered this year. This means that not only have we achieved the target of rehabilitating 10 priority corridors in 2022, we have exceeded this target,” Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Thursday in Johannesburg.
Speaking at the launch of the Naledi line commuter rail service at Park Station, the Minister said that prior to the catastrophic vandalism and damage of the rail network, PRASA operated 40 commuter rail routes in 2018/2019.
“Today, PRASA is operating 16 corridors. In 2015, PRASA was moving over 500 million passengers per annum. This number dropped to a little more than 200 million in 2019/2020, dropping further to 17 million in 2020/2021. The rehabilitation work, which also gives impetus to the modernisation programme, will undoubtedly reclaim the commuter rail market share,” Mbalula said.
The vandalism and destruction of the country’s rail network resulted in a major setback for PRASA’s modernisation programme.
“This means that we have to re-build in excess of one thousand kilometres (1,000km) of rail and signalling equipment and approximately 100 kilometres of track and over 400 stations. The devastation of the floods in KwaZulu-Natal further compounded the problem.
“In May 2022, PRASA rolled out the rebuilding programme in three of the earmarked priority corridors in Gauteng, which were closed to enable speedy rehabilitation. These are Pienaarspoort to Pretoria, Naledi to Johannesburg and Leralla to Elandsfontein.
“The line closures were essential to allow for the major reconstruction work of the traction substations, Overhead Traction Equipment (OHTE) and stations to continue uninterrupted and safely,” the Minister said.
He described the restoration of the Naledi line as a great accomplishment, given the importance of commuter train in bridging the gap between residential townships and hubs of economic activity.
“Commuter rail plays an important role in unwinding apartheid spatial planning that located the majority of our people away from their workplaces. The Naledi to Johannesburg corridor covers a distance of 70km, with 15 stations. We are pleased that the work of recovering overhead electrical wires stands at 95% completion rate at a cost of R 152 398 591.16,” the Minister said.
Substations are at 60% completion at a cost of R 181 976 138.05. A total of 354 local labourers were employed.
To date, PRASA has completed 13 corridors in this financial year.
“This milestone is an important and positive step towards our commitment to rebuild the rail infrastructure and restore passenger rail as the backbone of public transport.
“Our focus now shifts towards the rehabilitation of the remaining corridors this financial year. These include Leralla to Johannesburg and Pretoria to Kaalfontein in Gauteng, and Phase 1C of the Central Line, which extends from Langa to Nyanga, in Cape Town, and the electrical infrastructure between Durban to Umlazi and KwaMashu to Durban,” the Minister said
Major work is being done to improve security at the depots where the new trains will be stored in preparation for their introduction.
To guarantee the safety and protection of the new trains, high-tech walling is being installed at six depots: Braamfontein, Salt River, Paarden Eiland, Durban, Springfield, and East London.
“PRASA is also in the process of walling some of the passenger rail corridors to prevent ease of access to the rail network and to protect the new trains from vandalism. The Central Line and the Mabopane corridors have been prioritised for the walling project, while work on the remaining priority corridors will commence soon,” the Minister said.
He praised the project team for its unwavering commitment to the Naledi line’s rehabilitation and restoration of services.
“I must also thank the local communities, community leaders and small businesses who played a major role in supporting the work of PRASA towards the resumption of services on this corridor,” the Minister said.