Ben Martins is the new Energy Minister. File photo: Oupa Mokoena

Cape Town - The total investment backlog for signalling and infrastructure backlogs at Metrorail stood at R90 billion, Transport Minister Ben Martins said on Tuesday.

Replying in writing to a parliamentary question, Martins said R688 million was spent on attempts to eradicate the backlogs for modernised signalling systems last year, with another R768 million rand allocated to the project this year.

The expenditure on other infrastructure backlogs stood at R1,5 billion for last year. A further R2, 4 billion was set aside for 2012/13.

“The investment backlogs in signalling and infrastructure, including maintenance depots for rolling stock, relate more to an obsolete system at the end of its design life and outdated technology, due to decades of under-investment in the system, now requiring total renewal and modernisation,” said Martins.

He said 86 percent of the national signalling installations had reached the end of their design life. Replacement parts were not available anymore.

In August, French company Thales was appointed as the preferred bidder to manage the overhaul of Metrorail's signalling systems.

“Good progress is being made, with R9 billion committed to the re-signalling of all the signalling installations in Gauteng, KZN and Western Cape, with tenders for all these projects concluded and to be executed over the next five to seven years,” Martins said on Tuesday.

Metrorail has come under increasing pressure to update signalling systems, which experts say would help it provide a faster service. - Sapa