Daily travelling by train is no longer going to be a headache for commuters in Pretoria, thanks to Prasa’s newly unveiled world class locomotives.
Officially unveiling the silver, blue and grey trains in Pretoria, President Jacob Zuma said the days of uncomfortable and at times unreliable and unsafe rail service must become a thing of the past.
After today’s launch, passengers travelling between Pretoria and Pienaarspoort in Gauteng will travel using the new state-of-the-art trains. The new trains have some key features designed for both safety and passenger comfort. They have air conditioners, cameras and they are designed not to move when doors are open.
“This launch is part of government’s programme of building and renewing infrastructure. We made a commitment as government to maintain road infrastructure, upgrade rail infrastructure and services, and also to build a reliable public transportation service.
“This is aimed at improving the quality of life of our people by developing accessible, safe and modern public transport in the country,” said President Zuma.
The project is part of the bigger plan by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to modernise its fleet and improve the passenger travel experience in South Africa.
Government is investing R51 billion in buying new trains and a further R4 billion in new hybrid locomotives, which uses an on-board rechargeable energy storage system.
In total, the investment programme towards the modernisation of passenger rail infrastructure and services totals R173 billion.
Prasa entered into a contract with Gibela Rail Transport Consortium in 2013, valued at R59 billion, to deliver 600 new train-sets, with 580 to be produced locally and 20 manufactured in Brazil.
The 580 train-sets will see the construction of a new train manufacturing plant valued at approximately R1 billion at Dunnottar Park near Nigel.
Once completed, the programme will employ approximately 1 500 people, 99% of which will be South Africans, 85% historically disadvantaged and 25% of this being women.
President Zuma said the investment in the modernisation programme will ensure that the country changes its rail landscape.
“We already have a large network of infrastructure to build on. Government, through Prasa, owns 2 280 kilometres of South Africa’s rail network and uses 22 000 kilometres of rail track under the control of Transnet,” he said.
Prasa has 585 train stations and a total fleet of 4 735 coaches, with an overall staff complement of 18 207.
Moloto Development Corridor
With the implementation of the Moloto Development Corridor, President Zuma said South Africans will witness the expansion of the country’s rail network.
The Moloto Development Corridor’s main objective is to increase speed for buses from 70km per hour to 120km/h, and from 160km/h to 200km for standard gauge trains, thereby reduce travel time for commuters.
“This infrastructure, especially the passenger rail services, will be transformed and modernised over the next 20 years.
“This is the beginning of the revival of passenger rail after 40 years of underinvestment. This underinvestment in passenger rail has resulted in old and unreliable trains and rail infrastructure,” he said.
Prasa cannot launch new trains on the old infrastructure because it will be unable to support the new trains and their technology.
Burning of trains must stop
The President urged South Africans to report any form of vandalism and burning of trains to the police.
“As we hand over such infrastructure, we appeal to our people to handle it with care. These are your trains. Look after them so that they can carry you for many years to come.
“The acts of vandalism and serious crimes such as the burning of trains are totally unacceptable. Those who burn trains, steal cables or do anything that undermines the efforts of improving the quality of life of all must be reported to the police.
“We have experienced shocking incidents in this country where people burn trains because they arrived late at the station and made them late for work. That is too drastic and is totally unacceptable.
“Commuters and our passenger rail teams should engage and discuss customer care issues such as arrival and departure times. Clear and open channels of communication must be strengthened so that we do not have to go through horrible incidents such as the burning of trains and other critical infrastructure,” he said.