Cape Town - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has been urged to ensure the five appointed contractors who will revamp about 400 train coaches at a cost of R7.5 billion over five years, have the required skills and that correct procedures were followed.
A number of passenger rail coaches have been destroyed in the past years as a result of arson, collisions, derailments, and vandalism. Some suffered damages such as cable cuts or components stolen.
The five contractors appointed to undertake work in four regions including the Western Cape are expected to repair and rebuild.
This is part of the modernisation programme of the passenger rail network which includes a rolling stock general overhaul, a rolling stock fleet renewal programme, and signalling and communications.
Prasa acting chief executive, David Mphelo said four of the five contractors appointed were new entrants, which will require to be developed.
Mphelo said the economic benefit of the contract cannot be understated.
“As part of the asset life cycle management, individual coaches need to undergo general maintenance every nine to ten years. The programme has the potential to create up to 2000 direct jobs. Each contractor will be required to train at least 20 youth each year,” said Mphelo.
DA MP Tim Brauteseth said he was concerned that four of the five contractors appointed to do rolling stock refurbishment were new entrants.
“I am worried that they will not have the required skills. It was nonsensical to award tenders to companies that don’t have the required skills. While I fully support the training requirement for contractors, however, I am afraid this could be another ‘tickbox’ exercise,” he said.
Brauteseth said Prasa must ensure that the trained people receive certificates recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
ANC MP Mandla Rayi also questioned who would be responsible for developing the new entrants.
“The new entrants were companies that had not contracted for Prasa before. They might have done work in the rail space for Transnet, the mining industry, or Gautrain. They were not necessarily new entrants into the rail space as a whole,” Mphelo explained.
He also mentioned that 96 new trains had been provisionally accepted, some of which had already been delivered to Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
“Seven new trains were delivered to Wolmerton with two more expected by the end of June. Provisionally Accepted’s were delayed due to UHF Radio programming functionality/fit-for-purpose issue which is being resolved.”