Mr Brian Bruce, Chief Executive of Murray and Roberts
Mr Jay Naidoo, Chairperson of the J and J Group
Mr Zukile Nomvete, Chairperson of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation (SARCC)
Ms Mpumi Mpofu, Director-General of the Department of Transport (DoT)
Mr Tshepo Montana, Chief Executive of the SARCC
Mr Pallelo Lebaka, Chief Executive of the Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW) Partnership
Management and leadership teams of the SARCC, Murray and Roberts and the UCW Partnership
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my honour and privilege to be invited to this occasion. I'm sure you will all agree that the status of rail transport has assumed greater importance than ever before in the growth of our economy - and the challenge facing us is how to adjust our rail infrastructure systems so as to respond to the emerging trading systems and travelling patterns of our people.
It is however pleasing that after years of underinvestment in our rail system; we are already implementing the National Passenger Railplan which is the democratic government's response to secure the future of commuter rail by applying the priority corridor strategy to the rail network throughout the country. The intention is to extend the rail service to areas previously not covered and to improve the efficiency of the existing passenger rail lines on both short and long distance services.
Through SARCC, we have committed in excess of R18 billion to improve our passenger rail system. This is at the backdrop of government's commitment to a long-term investment in improved rail services. A significant portion of this fund has already been committed by the SARCC to upgrade almost 2 000 of its 4 600 coaches around the country. During the 2006/07 financial year 310 coaches were refurbished, 489 during the 2007/08 and we have as our target the refurbishment of 700 coaches for the 2008/09 financial years. This delivery of coaches is aimed at improving train availability nationally to 96 percent of the current fleet by 2010. We are also pleased that the capacity of the industry to deliver has also increased, with increased levels of employment.
Already the passenger rail has begun to respond to the need for an efficient and reliable public transport system. The Business Express Service that we launched in Soweto, Khayelitsha and Tshwane is making a huge difference in the lives of our people. I'm also pleased that the CEO of SARCC/Metrorail is also leading by example as the passenger of Tshwane Express on a daily basis. As a result of the Tshwane Express' huge success with demand exceeding capacity, I'm pleased to announce that the SARCC is already considering an additional similar express train service.
The launch of the 10M4 today, is therefore a significant milestone in the journey to revitalise and recapitalise the Rail Passenger Transport in our country. The introduction of these refurbished coaches, as shown by the success of the Business Express, demonstrates what rail can achieve when it is properly capitalised to ensure that levels of safety are improved, that the service is reliable, and commuters travel in comfort at an affordable price.
With such innovation, we are certain that we will achieve sustainable growth in our rail environment. Both our Freight Logistics Strategy and the National Rail Plan require your concerted effort to enable a seamless movement of people and goods for economic efficiency and sustainability. Through a sustainable supply of freight and passenger locomotives and rolling stock from UCW, we should be able to witness such increased efficiency on our rail system. The UCWP's track record of more than 7 000 rolling stock for the Transnet Freight Rail is a living proof that UCWP is a significant economic player with direct participation in infrastructure investment within the rail environment. With the long term contract by the UCWP to manufacture more than 5 000 SARC Electrical Multiple Units, we are therefore confident that the UCW will deliver on its commitments for a brighter future in our passenger rail services.
Let me also mention that as government we have made huge investments of over R13,6 billion in the public transport infrastructure alone for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We have significantly advanced with the delivery of this infrastructure. But I am also pleased that the SARCC accelerated Rolling Stock Programme (ARSP) is also in line with our preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, especially with approximately 500 coaches to be ready by March 2010 for the Soccer World Cup - which will play a major role in addressing our transport demands.
Ladies and gentlemen, the UCWP's ability to secure the contract to assembly the Gautrain vehicles with Bombardier Transportation is another major milestone. I have no doubt that the UCWP's assembly factory for the Gautrain has started to roll in order to ensure that the Gautrain is also ready for the World Cup. Indeed, such partnerships and job creation initiatives are important for our economy to grow.
Government has given the industry the certainty and support it requires, the industry needs to urgently address its challenges of skills, availability of components crucial for the refurbishment program, and ability to meet the targets set by the SARCC.
As government, we would like to reiterate that the quality of work performed by the industry must be of the highest quality if the improved customer services are to be maintained. Government is making significant investments in the rail passenger sector, and Rolling Stock is a big recipient. The refurbishment program is one of the key interventions necessary to ensure that passenger rail services are stabilised until such time that the new rolling stock is acquired. The SARCC, with increased funding from government in the past two years, needs to further accelerate the rate of overhauls and upgrades as a short term strategy to curtail the further deterioration in the level of commuter train services, including urgent investments on signalling systems, station improvements and customer service.
With these few words, I'm certain that we are all expecting the rail network to work as a single entity. Performance is what matters with reliable services that our people can depend on. And achieving this means everybody at every level working together with a shared objective. I don't underestimate the scope of what need to be achieved. But service delivery is paramount. And nothing can come before that.
I thank you!