Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula unveiled a Ministerial War Room on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) that is aimed at aggressively improving the quality of the country’s passenger rail service.
The war room will focus on addressing a number of challenges that include overcrowding; improving on time arrivals; safety management and the implementation of the Modernisation Programme.
“This War Room is about the people and a key measure in delivering on our commitment to improve our public transport system,” Mbalula said.
Addressing the launch of the Ministerial War Room in Johannesburg, the Minister said in terms of service delivery, the war room will pay particular attention on rolling stock availability and reliability, infrastructure availability and reliability and train performance.
The War Room will direct its efforts towards the realization of the Service Recovery targets by 31 December.
These include improving on-time performance of Metrorail to 85%, currently at 50.2%. It will work towards getting people to work and centres of economic activity on time.
It further seeks to improve on-time arrivals of Shosholoza Meyl to above 50%, currently at 3%.
The War Room will also ensure Metrorail train set availability is at 291 train sets, currently at 157.
“Overcrowding in trains due to insufficient number of train sets on any given day creates a fertile ground for criminal activity and injuries in our commuter rail environment,” the Minister said.
The War Room will also improve locomotive availability of Shosholoza Meyl to 60%, currently below 40%. The main driver of poor on-time departures and arrivals for long distance trains is the unavailability of locomotives.
One of the service delivery objectives is to achieve 100% correct configuration of train sets, currently at 41%.
The War Room will also reduce area under speed restrictions to less than 100km of the network, currently at 167km.
“A large part of the network is under speed restrictions due to ageing infrastructure or other safety issues, resulting in delays. Injecting urgency in addressing these issues will reduce the delays in our trains,” the Minister said.
The Safety Management area pays particular attention to implementing effective measures to protect rolling stock, staging yards, electrical and signal infrastructure, depots, stations and passengers.
“Integral to this is achieving full compliance with the Railway Safety Regulator permit conditions and directives.
“These conditions will form part of the Safety Management workstream in order to keep these on the radar of the War Room. Compliance by Prasa with safety standards and directives is a non-negotiable. The safety of our people on our trains is sacrosanct,” the Minister said.
The third focus area is accelerated implementation of the Modernisation Programme.
“This entails urgently creating capacity for Prasa to manage capital projects and spend its capital budget to achieve effective sequencing of critical infrastructure that will enable the deployment of the new trains in targeted corridors. This is an area of serious concern,” the Minister said.
He said over the last few years Prasa has been unable to spend to the tune of R18 billion.
The budget for the current financial year is R10.2 billion and Prasa has only been able to spend 5% of its current budget at the end of the first quarter.
The War Room will be supported by a Technical Task Team primarily made up of experts with in-depth knowledge and experience in a number of areas, which include train operations, signaling, rolling stock and security.
“On a daily basis, the team will start the day with an assessment of the previous day’s performance and identify issues that hamper performance and make decisions on how to resolve these.
“The relevant officials with delegated authority will action these decisions and report to the War Room through the Daily Status Meetings. Performance will be managed and monitored daily to ensure sustained improvement,” the Minister said.
In the Metrorail Regions and Mainline Passenger Services (MLPS), the War Room structure will be replicated and performance information reported on daily.