File image: Western Cape network of commuter and rail service, Metrorail. IOL.

CAPE TOWN - The City of Cape Town has revealed its intention to takeover failing rail commuter, Metrorail. 

According to the City of Cape Town, the commuter rail is "on the brink of total collapse". 

This observation follows a stark increase in the number of passengers utilising the commuter rail since 2015. 

The City notes a tragic 30% decrease in passengers from the 2015/2016 to 2016/2017 financial year. 

This harsh knock on passenger frequency shows a shocking 2.7 million decrease in rail journeys in Cape Town per month in 2016/2017 in comparison to 2015/2016. 

The issues passengers face

- Punctuality is virtually non-existent with four out of every 10 trains (43%) being on time when the international norm is 80%. 

- Personal safety and security is compromised - 26% of the complaints registered with the Transport Information Centre relate to inadequate security. 

- At least one out of every 10 trains (11%) is cancelled on a daily basis. 

- By April 2017, Metrorail was short of 20 train sets – the service was operating on 68 sets as opposed to the 88 train sets required to run an efficient service.

Citing the importance of passenger rail, it is recorded that 54% of commuters journeys are made by train. 

Yet, in light of the poor service that Metrorail has been providing, thousands of commuters have been displaced to other modes of transport. 
The City's Mayoral Committee member for Transport and Urban Development, Councillor Brett Herron said in a statement that the City cannot sit back and wait for the National Government to intervene. 

"We are facing a real risk that passenger rail in Cape Town could effectively collapse before the DoT’s National Rail Policy (draft White Paper) of June 2017 is finalised to devolve the management of passenger rail to municipalities. This could take another two to three years, says Herron. 

The City's plans 

Once the City receives the go-ahead from Council, they will present a business plan to the DoT. 

The business plan will propose that the City take over the passenger rail in a structured and incremental manner. 

The take-over must happen gradually so that the City can plan ahead, acquire the necessary skills, and develop the additional capacity to ensure the long-term sustainability of passenger rail, adds Herron. 

The City's intention once receiving approval:

- Intensify our memorandum of action with PRASA with the intention of stabilising passenger rail and preventing the further decline of the rail service in Cape Town. The City must be allowed to access the local operational and financial data so that we can identify the functionalities where intervention is to be prioritised, get a better understanding of the current strategic and operational risks, and determine the full scope and cost of the assignment of the urban rail function

- Submit our application to the DoT and National Treasury for the assignment of urban rail to the City

- Engage with the DoT and National Treasury about the approach to the allocation of subsidies for urban rail and commence with a detailed exploration and investigation of the feasibility of alternative rail solutions such as light rail, skyrail, monorail, and urban cable car. Alternative rail solutions could be implemented as part of the City’s comprehensive integrated transport plan or in areas where they could be more economically viable than other modes of public transport – in  particular in those areas that are currently not served by passenger rail and the MyCiTi bus service

The reports will serve before the Mayoral Committee for recommendation next week, and will be submitted to full Council for approval on October 26 2017.

Notably, Herron will announce the full details of the reports once it has been served before the Mayoral Committee. 

He further affirms the City's commitment  to providing the political direction and leadership to get Metrorail back on track. 

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