Prasa chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane
Prasa chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane

Prasa Central line recovery plan under fire for offering nothing new

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Jun 23, 2021

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Cape Town - The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has been criticised for presenting a Central Line Recovery Plan that was the same as previous years - amid pressing new challenges.

Presenting before the standing committee on Tuesday, Metrorail’s group manager Richard Walker said challenges faced on that line include organised crime where copper theft has become rife, gangs and illegal occupations.

Metrorail’s group manager Richard Walker said challenges faced on that line include organised crime where copper theft has become rife, gangs and illegal occupations.

The corridor, meant to run from Cape Town station to Chris Hani station and Kapteinsklip, was the Western Cape’s busiest rail commuter line.

It now operates up to Langa train station, after the service was suspended in 2019 due to theft and vandalism of railway infrastructure.

With the Covid-19 lockdown, the rail agency's challenges escalated as thousands of shacks were erected at Langa, Philippi and Nonqubela stations.

The rail agency needs to urgently relocate at least 1 350 structures to get the Central Line operational once more.

A total of 7 844 dwellings need to be relocated in all, requiring 55 hectares of land.

“A walling project of 4m high will assist when people are removed, because we can’t remove people and still not fence off the area, or we will deal with the same problem. There will be an improved security deployment, including armed response, early warning technology, floodlights in the rail network and armed response,” Walker said.

However, Good party secretary-general Brett Herron said the Central Line Recovery Plan has made no progress since it was first prepared and presented in 2017/18.

“The plan presented, which includes walling, new signalling and relocation of dwellings, makes the same commitments made four years ago. There is nothing new and we question the sustainability of the wall. The state of public transport in the city was directly attributable to a profound dearth of leadership in Cape Town.”

DA spokesperson on transport and public works Ricardo Mackenzie said while they welcomed Prasa’s announcement that R790 million would be spent over the next three years to repair and upgrade stations, it would still cost the country’s fiscus at least R2.8 billion for the Central Line Recovery Programme to be completed.

“I also don’t understand what will change. The security plans are the same and don’t know when they will be implemented. Without a functional railway system, residents have to rely on alternative means of transport, which can be expensive and environmentally unfriendly.”

Responding to questions about illegal occupiers, Prasa chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane said they urgently required land.

“Since the board took over we did not waste time, but started engaging with the Western Cape government and other stakeholders. We have been engaging with the City looking for alternative land. The department of public works indicated which pieces of land could help only the Langa situation. We also have been engaging with the mayor since last September, around a land swap. But we have been waiting for the City to respond since then. We have not received answers, and this is a knock-on effective on our deadline to get the line running.”

Cape Times

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