Prasa train in Cape Town

SOUTH AFRICA: Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana has authorised the city of Cape Town to undertake a detailed feasibility study for the potential devolution of control of suburban rail services from the national government.

‘This is a big deal, because up until now, the national government had tried to block the feasibility study’, said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis on April 27. ‘There is a new wind blowing, we hope.’

Cape Town Central Line tracks (Photo: Fikile Mbalula)

Tenders have been called for the study, which is expected to get underway on July 1. ‘I do not think this first part of the project needs to take a long time’, said the Mayor. ‘Let’s get it done as quickly as possible, so we can move on with getting the trains working.’

He told the council that ’our aim is to ensure that the trains run on time, that they are safe to travel on and that they are the preferred mode of transport for our citizens.

‘I think every councillor here, and every resident of the city, shares my frustration with the national government-controlled passenger rail service.’

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa services had ‘reached crisis point’ in Cape Town, he added, with 33 operational trainsets in 2020 compared to 95 in 1995. In June 2019 Prasa was operating 444 weekday trips in Cape Town, before the pandemic in early 2020 this had dropped to 270, and there are currently no more than 153 trips a day.

National Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula stressed that only a feasibility study had been approved, and any take over of rail services would be subject to the city demonstrating its capacity to do so and would require the Transport Minister’s approval.