Johannesburg - The government has given "the green-light" for a multi-year, multi-billion rand recapitalisation of both freight and passenger rail, Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin
said on Wednesday.
"The poor condition of Metrorail rolling stock contributes significantly to the delays and cancellations of the scheduled daily commuter rail service," Cronin said at a Railway and Harbours Conference.
He said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) planned to acquire new metro service coaches over an 18- to 20-year period, starting in 2014.
"A detailed needs and feasibility study is currently under way," said Cronin.
"The feasibility study covers engineering, economic, legal and financial analysis for the procurement, financing, operating and maintenance of the new rolling stock for Prasa," he said.
Of the 4 638 commuter coaches in the Metrorail fleet, 2 200 were older than 36 years, and the average age of coaches was 40 years.
Transnet was also preparing to purchase freight wagons and locomotives, he said.
"This provides the opportunity of collaboration between Prasa and Transnet to leverage economies of scale, job creation and skills and technology transfers for the rail engineering industry in South Africa."
Cronin said a shift from rail to road transportation of freight had led to a deterioration in road conditions, congestion, and collisions.
"The disproportionate shift of freight onto road has seen road construction and maintenance costs soar," he said.
Meanwhile, protesting rail commuters on Wednesday called for the reinstatement of Transnet, claiming Metrorail and Prasa delivered a poor service.
"The people are tired of Metrorail and Prasa," said Concerned Commuters' Organisation of SA chairperson Bongani Ntuli.
Time-keeping and safety are major concerns for commuters, who get to work late every day.
"At certain stops, drivers wait for the next driver to take over and sometimes we have to wait really long," said Ntuli.
"When there is a breakdown, we have to wait up to seven hours for a technician, from far away, to come because of traffic jams."
Ntuli said robbery is rife on trains and that women, who are sometimes delayed while returning home at night, face being raped.