Rail devolution only solution for struggling commuters

Please find attached Afrikaans and English soundbites by Chris Hunsinger MP.

In a presentation before the National Council of Provinces, the Passenger Rail Company of South Africa (PRASA) essentially confirmed the collapse of the passenger rail system and why the DA’s call for the devolution of rail networks from PRASA should now be prioritised as a matter of urgency.

PRASA is operating in crisis mode because:

  • Metrorail paying passengers has decreased from 646 million in 2008/09 to 147 million 2019/20;
  • Only 45% of Prasa’s 40 Passenger rail corridors are functional; and
  • Cape Town’s central line, from Nyanga to Chris Hani, is only expected to be back online in December 2022.

At a time when commuters are facing high transport costs due to astronomical fuel prices, the failure to address the passenger rail crisis is an indictment on Minister Fikile Mbalula’s lack of leadership and disregard for the plight of ordinary South Africans.

Today, StatsSA revealed that inflation rose to 6,5% , driven largely by food and transport costs. With most consumers struggling to stay above water due to the rising cost of living, one would expect that fixing the broken passenger rail system would be a top priority for the ANC government. Their only priority, it seems, is to prioritise the multi-billion rand budget that Cabinet members are spending on travel and accommodation.

The Zondo Commission also brought up the issue of PRASA’s terminal decline and recommended the set up of an inquiry into how the passenger rail agency was allowed to “slide into almost total ruin.”

Providing an economical, dependable and reliable rail network as a transport alternative should be an urgent priority to help low income households and save them from spending a high proportion of their monthly budget on transport.

In April, the City of Cape Town announced that it had received the go-ahead to conduct a detailed feasibility study on the metropolitan rail function. With the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana having expressed support for such devolution – the DA is encouraged that placing the management of passenger rail in the hands of the City will alleviate the challenges faced by Capetonians.

That the ANC government has collapsed the public transport system is no longer in question. What is needed are practical solutions to shield commuters from this abject failure by devolving public transport management to capable municipalities.