President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the Pretoria train station after a delayed train ride from Mabopane to Pretoria. File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

PRETORIA - President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed the Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to resolve the problems plaguing South Africa's commuter rail agency urgently, the Presidency said on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa had a meeting with Nzimande in Cape Town on Tuesday "following his first-hand experience of the difficulties regularly experienced by commuters" when the president was stuck on a Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) train from Mabopane to the Tshwane CBD on Monday. 

Among the challenges raised at Ramaphosa's meeting with Nzimande was the deterioration of infrastructure and unacceptable delays of train services, which often result in commuters arriving late for work, school and other commitments. 

Passenger and driver safety also received attention.

"The president stressed the need for a safe, reliable and integrated public transport system to support the country’s economic development aspirations," the Presidency said.

"While appreciating that Prasa is currently implementing one of the largest urban rail modernisation programmes in the world, the agency’s failure to implement its turnaround plans and, in the process, pay due attention to critical rail operational functions, is a cause for concern."

Ramaphosa "directed immediate action to strengthen governance by stabilising the leadership cohort at [Prasa] board level and filling critical vacancies, including that of the group chief executive officer".

The Presidency said urgent action is required to accelerate the implementation of the R172 billion modernisation programme meant to eliminate challenges occasioned by aging infrastructure. 

"Minister Nzimande is expected to make announcements in due course on the delivery of these commitments and other actions to be undertaken to restore service performance at Prasa," the Presidency said.

On Monday the DA said Ramaphosa’s delayed train ride on this week depicted what exactly is wrong with the railway system and the governing ANC.

Ramaphosa was stuck for hours on a train with disgruntled commuters while he was on the campaign trail for the ANC with some of his fellow party leaders.

Ramaphosa and the commuters boarded the train at Mabopane Station in Pretoria before 8am. The train was more than an hour late.

On the way to Bosman Station, where Ramaphosa later disembarked, the train got stuck twice - at Marabastad and Technikon Rant stations - adding another two hours to the travelling time of passengers. 

Tired of waiting, some of the commuters jumped off the train and walked to their work places while the president remained put.

Ramaphosa was accompanied by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, while some leaders went to various train stations across Tshwane as part of the elections campaign.

The DA said commuters had no safety in some trains and some lose their jobs because of delayed trains.

African News Agency (ANA)