Prasa resignalled the Cape Town - Simonstown line image Railway Gazette

SOUTH AFRICA: Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa has resignalled six suburban rail lines across the country, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga reported on April 24.

Under a project that is expected to take seven years to complete, Prasa is resignalling the network in phases, the minister said. According to the national safety regulator RSR, much of the country’s suburban rail lines are being controlled using manual telephone dispatch in the wake of the vandalism crisis seen during and after the pandemic.

‘Prasa is installing a state-of-the-art signalling system, including Prasa train control systems in line with ERTMS’, she said. It would also be compatible with provision of Automatic Train Protection, and the GSM-R and FRMCS telecoms standards. Installation of the equipment would ‘ensure that Prasa runs trains more efficiently, improving service frequency and enhancing the safe passage of trains on the rail network’, Chikunga explained.

‘When Prasa suffered massive theft and vandalism of the rail infrastructure, the newly installed state-of-the-art electronic interlocking and signalling equipment was not left unscathed. In rebuilding the rail infrastructure, Prasa is re-installing the stolen and vandalised signalling equipment’, the minister added.

Restoring signalling

Chikunga said Prasa had completed resignalling works on three lines in Gauteng: Mabopane – Pretoria; Saulsville – Pretoria; and Pretoria – De Wildt. On its Western Cape network, the operator has modernised the train control equipment at 24 of the 39 stations on the Cape Town – Simonstown line.

‘This means the train speed has been increased from 30 km/h to 75 km/h and commuters are getting to their destination much faster. When there was no signalling on the line, trains were running every 90 min and the trip to Cape Town station from Simonstown was 1 h 10 min. Prasa has reduced the journey time to 45 min and trains run every 20 min’, Chikunga said.

Prasa has also completed the signalling works on the Mutual – Langa section of Cape Town’s busy Central line. This section had been particularly badly affected by vandalism and equipment theft during and after the Covid-19 lockdowns.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the minister reported that Prasa was ‘working on installing its own Prasa Train Control System for the region’, although she did not give details of the technology to be deployed. Meanwhile, work has been undertaken to restore and modernise signalling systems on the Umlazi – Reunion line.

Legacy contracts

Resignalling of the Prasa network has been on the agenda for several years, with multiple procurements for work being carried out in the past decade.

In 2013, Thales and local partner Maziya was awarded a contract to resignal the network in the Western Cape, while Bombardier (now Alstom) and local company ERB was granted a package covering the recontrol of the routes in KwaZulu-Natal. Siemens held contracts covering the dense Gauteng network around Johannesburg. None of these suppliers responded to a request for updates when approached by Railway Gazette International.