City of Cape Town asks Nzimande to take emergency action as rail shutdown looms

Prasa's headquarters in Pretoria.

Prasa's headquarters in Pretoria.

The revocation of Prasa’s operating permit comes in response to the collision between two trains in Gauteng this week, and the failing state of Metrorail services

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande needs to “step up” and take emergency action following reports that the Railway Safety Regulator may revoke the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) operating permit, City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron said on Saturday.

“I am very concerned about reports that the Railway Safety Regulator has issued a notice of its intention to revoke the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s operating permit. This could result in a nationwide shutdown of Metrorail operations,” he said in a statement.

This move came in response to the collision between two trains in Gauteng this week, and the poor and failing state of Metrorail services in general. The regulator was required to ensure that it was safe for commuters to use the urban rail service. The drastic decision to issue a notice to revoke Prasa’s operating permit on the grounds of safety concerns was a clear indication of the state of the service, Herron said.

“Shutting down the most important mode of public transport is not a decision that would be taken easily. Grinding rail commuting to a halt will impact millions of South Africans. In Cape Town alone, several hundred thousand passenger trips are made daily on Metrorail despite the poor and unreliable conditions under which our commuters and residents travel.

It is for precisely these reasons that I called on the Minister of Transport Mr Blade Nzimande to declare an emergency with regard to rail services. I was not ‘politicking’ as he has accused me of doing. I am calling again on minister Nzimande to do something,” he said.

The service in Cape Town required urgent intervention to improve the rolling stock to at least 88 full train sets. The carriages that had been damaged needed to be repaired and brought back into service urgently. The relentless attacks on the service and infrastructure had to be brought to an end, and a safe, stable, and reliable commuter rail service had to be established.

“My call on the minister for him to consider the powers he has to bring an emergency response is clearly required. Emergency funds and fast-tracking procurement for critical services is what is needed. It is the appropriate response to the scale and urgency of the problem. We need the fastest mechanism to implement effective changes with immediate effect,” Herron said.

“I have had no formal confirmation of the Rail Safety Regulator’s intention as yet. Whatever the regulator’s decision, the service requires urgent intervention from minister Nzimande. I am asking him to step up,” he said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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