While the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) was unable to answer questions on when long-distance train trips between Johannesburg and Cape Town would resume, the entity has been slammed for alleged ill-preparedness in relaunching the service.
In December, the same month of the return of the long-distance trip service, a Shosholoza Meyl passenger train had to cut its trip from Joburg to Cape Town short due to “infrastructure challenges” and has not returned to service since.
Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda said the “service has been temporarily suspended to service the locomotives to increase availability of locomotives”. According to Makanda, customers were “made aware and arrangements have been made to refund customers who have paid”.
Further enquiries were not answered by deadline on Wednesday.
According to DA MP Chris Hunsinger, the Durban to Joburg train service has been “scaled back” and will now run monthly instead of weekly.
“The few train trips that were undertaken during this period ended before passengers could reach their destinations and had to be transported by bus. While it’s obvious that Prasa was neither ready nor technically capable of relaunching the service, the question that Prasa executives need to answer is whether this was an evidence-informed operational decision or whether Prasa executives were under some form of political duress when they took the decision.”
The party said it had submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application to Prasa to request a record of decision that informed the reinstatement of its long-distance train service “despite lingering concerns about Prasa’s technical state of readiness”.
GOOD Party secretary-general Brett Herron said the “quiet cancellation” should serve as a wake-up call to Prasa and the Department of Transport.
“A reliable and safe commuter rail service is the backbone of any country’s public transport network and a crucial part of growing the economy and addressing inequalities.
“Yet, recently Prasa opted to rather focus on celebrating its ill-prepared long-distance passenger links, which they could not even sustain for more than a mere three weeks, and should have been lower down their priority list to start with,” Herron said.
“Prasa and the Department of Transport should rather be working around the clock to get existing commuter rail services operating.”