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Prasa granted commercial licence to run 'The People’s Train' on the Southern Line

The Alstom X’Trapolis Mega six-car commuter Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains at Paarden Island Prasa Depot. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

The Alstom X’Trapolis Mega six-car commuter Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains at Paarden Island Prasa Depot. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 25, 2022


Cape Town - The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has granted the passenger rail agency of SA (Prasa) a commercial licence to operate the new blue electric trains on the Southern Line.

The blue train – “The People’s Train” – was unveiled and tested at Cape Town station, where President Cyril Ramaphosa and former transport minister Blade Nzimande cut the ribbon and took a ride to Mowbray station in April, 2019.

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RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams, said Prasa made an application to the RSR to commence their commercial service. The RSR has since granted the licence to Prasa with no objection.

Prasa's acting chief executive, David Mphelo, said the decision by the RSR comes as Prasa ramps up efforts to bring more rail corridors back to operations across the country.

Mphelo said the Metrorail Western Cape has been running the off-peak operations of the new electric trains on the Southern Line since November last year, while running the yellow grey trains during peak time.

He said what the regulator's decision meant was that the new trains could now run on both peak and off-peak hours.

He said the People’s Train was part of Prasa’s modernisation programme that would bring state-of-the-art rail service to the South Africans. It is part of their brand promise to deliver modern, faster, reliable, and cost-efficient train services.

United Commuters Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said: "It all sounds and looks great until you look beyond the facade.

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"In this day and age we tend to give participation awards to those who just show up. The Southern Line seems to be the only line that Prasa boasts about; what about the Northern and Central Lines?"

Jardim said the regulator continued to issue permits even though the current people's trains were not compliant.

United National Transport Union (Untu) spokesperson, Sonja Carstens, said the critical line was actually the central line, and it would like to see that being restored as soon as possible.

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Transport and Public Works standing committee chairperson in the legislature, Derrick America, said Prasa recently briefed the committee on its rail operations and turnaround strategy for key transport corridors and revealed it was still operating 65% fewer trains on weekdays than in 2019.

America said nearly two years later, major corridor lines in the province continued to be plagued by vandalism, particularly theft of cables and signalling equipment. Land invasions also played a part in the steady decline of the train services.

“This causes great delays and cancellations, hindering economic growth and recovery in the Western Cape.

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“While Prasa’s response has brought some improvements to the operations of the railway system, real urgency and prioritisation is needed to bring the most cost-effective mode of public transport fully online,” he said.

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Cape Argus