President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to resolve the problems plaguing South Africa’s commuter rail agency urgently, the Presidency said on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa had a meeting with Nzimande in Cape Town on Tuesday, “following his first-hand experience of the difficulties regularly experienced by commuters” when the president was stuck on a Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) train from Mabopane to the Tshwane CBD on Monday.
Among the challenges raised at Ramaphosa’s meeting with Nzimande was the deterioration of infrastructure and unacceptable delays of train services, which often result in commuters arriving late for work, school and other commitments.
Passenger and driver safety also received attention.
“The president stressed the need for a safe, reliable and integrated public transport system to support the country’s economic development aspirations,” the Presidency said.
“While appreciating that Prasa is currently implementing one of the largest urban rail modernisation programmes in the world, the agency’s failure to implement its turnaround plans and, in the process, pay due attention to critical rail operational functions, is a cause for concern.”
Ramaphosa “directed immediate action to strengthen governance by stabilising the leadership cohort at [Prasa] board level and filling critical vacancies, including that of the group chief executive officer”.
The Presidency said urgent action was required to accelerate the implementation of the R172 billion modernisation programme meant to eliminate challenges occasioned by ageing infrastructure.
“Minister Nzimande is expected to make announcements in due course on the delivery of these commitments and other actions to be undertaken to restore service performance at Prasa,” the Presidency said.
On Monday the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said Ramaphosa’s delayed train ride this week depicted what was wrong with the railway system and the governing African National Congress.
Ramaphosa was stuck for hours on a train with disgruntled commuters while on the campaign trail for the ANC with some of his fellow party leaders.
Ramaphosa and the commuters boarded the train at Mabopane Station in Pretoria before 8am. The train was more than an hour late.
On the way to Bosman Station, where Ramaphosa later disembarked, the train was stuck twice – at Marabastad and Technikon Rant stations – adding another two hours to the travelling time of passengers.
Tired of waiting, some of the commuters jumped off the train and walked to their workplaces while the president remained put.
Ramaphosa was accompanied by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, while some leaders went to various train stations across Tshwane as part of the elections campaign.
The DA said commuters had no safety in some trains and some lost their jobs because of delayed trains.
– African News Agency (ANA)