TRANSPORT Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
TRANSPORT Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Minister Mbalula mum when metrorail trains will be back on track in Cape Town

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Nov 18, 2021

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Cape Town - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is mum on when commuter trains will resume operations on Cape Town’s Central Line.

During the verbal question and answer session in Parliament yesterday, EFF MP Nontando Nolutshungu asked Mbalula to inform the country when operations would be restored.

In his response, Mbalula said the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) was working on removing people who currently lived on the railway line and reserves.

He maintained that once that process of removing those people and obtaining land for resettlement was concluded, work would commence to revive the line.

“We work with the City of Cape Town, the provincial government and Housing Development Agency to find land for those people,” the minister said.

Mbalula noted that there were legalities and litigation involved after Prasa was threatened with court action over the land identified for settlement of the people.

“It is really a frustrating process. We want to go through it as soon as possible. I can’t commit to the exact deadlines,” he said.

“We are working around the clock to get the people removed and to ensure we get work going in the Central line. It is a huge setback for the working class."

Mbalula was initially asked about progress Prasa made to date in improving the commuter rail service and infrastructure development as well as securing the assets.

Prasa has a detailed recovery plan aimed at rehabilitation and replacement of stolen and vandalised infrastructure.

The affected infrastructure includes replacement of overhead traction equipment, substation signalling and stations.

“Progress in rehabilitation and recovery of services is at various stages across corridors,” Mbalula said.

He said the priority was on the Mabopane and Central line corridors.

“Work on Mabopane is nearing completion and is on target to resume services by the end of November. The Central line experiences delays due to removal of informal settlements on the track and with rail services in Langa and Philippi.”

He said other corridors are at various stages of procurement to appoint consultants and contractors to commence with the rehabilitation of rail.

Mbalula said Prasa has relooked at security deployment strategy including armed response in addition to its internal security operations.

“Prasa will deploy further 5 000 guards sourced through private service security during December 2021 which will bolster coverage of its infrastructure with both armed and unarmed guards based on security risk report.“

He said the report advised on deployment on corridor recovery approach adopted by Prasa in reinforcing boots on the ground.

“Prasa will be making use of security and surveillance technology as part of its phase two deployment from December.”

He said the additional measure to improve security was the construction of concrete walls along identified rail corridors, substations, relay rooms and control rooms.

“The walls will be impenetrable and vandal proof. The material used will provide extra strength height of up to 4 metres, reinforced with an electric fence and CCTV cameras and motion detectors installed.

“Prasa will continue with its risk-based approach in deploying further security where necessary,” Mbalula said.

He said there would be deployments on the platforms, in-between and in stations and inside moving trains to safeguard commuters.

“Priority will be given to high volume corridors.”

Mbalula noted that vandalism on Prasa property escalated during the lockdown.

He defended the decision to discontinue security companies to comply with an audit query over their irregular appointments but blamed the former board for not putting contingency measures in place.

“This is what exacerbated vandalism. Vandalism did not start during Covid-19,” Mbalula said.

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Political Bureau

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