Boksburg - Gauteng Premier David Makhura said on Tuesday that the provincial government would soon take over the running of trains from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
"Provincial government is now going to operate not just the buses, it's also going to operate the Metrorail system. The provincial government of Gauteng is now empowered and there was also a law passed in Parliament to urban regions to operate integrated public transport systems," Makhura said.
"Prasa is going to be devolved to the provincial government. We are now going to be responsible for integrating Prasa and the Gautrain. The new public transport system will just be like the Gautrain by standard, look and feel and efficiency."
Speaking at the unveiling of TMH Africa's recently acquired rolling stock manufacturing plant, Makhura said that the provincial legislature had passed a law that would give the province powers to run the passenger rail system.
"In the last sitting of the Gauteng Legislature, we passed the Transport Authority Bill, basically to create a single transport authority in Gauteng. The single transport authority that will be created out of the Bill has been something that is part of our vision for a long time," Makhura said.
"It is going to integrate the rail system, the buses, the taxi industry into a single, more efficient and reliable transport system in Gauteng."
The Transport Authority Bill (2018) was introduced by Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, in August last year before the portfolio committee on roads and transport in the provincial legislature.
Vadi had then said that a legally constituted transport authority will be a juristic entity and will transform the current fragmentation of public transport governance and better co-ordinate public transport operations in the province.
The responsibility for planning, coordination, optimisation, rationalisation and facilitation of public transport functions, authorities, systems and resources within the province will rest with the body once up and running.
Last month, Makhura and President Cyril Ramaphosa were stuck for three hours in a Metrorail train during a 45km ride from Mabopane to Bosman in Pretoria during the election campaign of the African National Congress (ANC).
Makhura detailed the experience as a harrowing one.
He said that modernisation of the whole rail network system was critical as rail was the backbone of the South African public transport system in the National Development Plan.
"Prasa, that is the commuter rail, is in big trouble. It needs to overhaul its rolling stock. In this country, many people use the rail system and at the moment it's not so much by choice. They use the rail system because it's the cheapest mode, but it's in terrible shape," Makhura said.
"The big challenge is that in our rail, the rolling stock is old but also the infrastructure of the signalling system is old, maintenance is poor, the service itself is very poor. Trains must be the travel mode of choice, especially long distances.
African News Agency (ANA)