Trains carry more than half of the commuters in the city, Brett Herron said. Picture: Bheki Radebe/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town wants to take over control of passenger railway services from Metrorail.

The City will approach the national transport department to take over the management of commuter rail in Cape Town, pending the approval of its full council by the end of October. 

"Commuter rail – the backbone of public transport in Cape Town – is on the brink of total collapse," mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said. 

"Given the severity of the situation and the fact that 54% of commuter journeys are made by passenger rail, the City of Cape Town intends to request that the National Department of Transport (DoT) expedite the assignment of the urban rail function to the City, pending Council’s approval by the end of this month."

Passenger rail numbers in Cape Town have fallen by 30% from 2015/16 to 2016/17, Herron said. 

"According to the latest data received from Metrorail, there were on average 2,7 million fewer rail journeys in Cape Town per month in 2016/17 when compared with 2015/16.
"Commuters have been and are still fleeing from passenger rail as they cannot rely on the trains to travel to and from work:
·         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

"Metrorail’s data confirms that thousands of commuters have been displaced to road-based transport – be it private vehicles, minibus-taxis or buses – over the past two years," Herron said.
Once the City gets the go-ahead from the council, it plans to present a business plan to the department which will propose the City take over passenger rail services 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," Herron said.

The City said it would require "millions of rands in the short- to medium-term to halt the decline and to build up passenger rail from scratch". 

Herron said the city would need about R20 million for the planning phase alone. 

"I want to be frank about the reality that it will take us years to repair the damage done to passenger rail over the past three decades. Setbacks should be expected," Herron said.

Adapted from press release
Cape Argus