PRASA and transport failures: Safe commuter rail must be top priority

17th January 2024

The quiet cancellation of the long-distance passenger rail service between Joburg and Cape Town, and the reduction of the service to a pointless once-a-month between Durban and Johannesburg, should serve as a wake-up call to PRASA and the Department of Transport to get their priorities right. 

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. 

PRASA and the Department of Transport should rather be working around the clock to get existing commuter rail services operating. 

Millions of commuter trips have been displaced to inefficient, costly, and environmentally damaging road trips. 

This is unacceptable and addressing this gap in our transport network should be their top priority. 

Their primary responsibility right now is to offer an affordable, fast, reliable, and safe commuter rail service. 

In Cape Town, the people of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, plus all the communities along those lines to Nyanga, have been without a Metrorail service since 2019. 

It is shameful that PRASA and the Department of Transport have not prioritised a fully functional Metrorail on existing lines, as well as the many promised network extensions. 

Again in Cape Town, the Blue Downs Rail Link was promised 7 years ago. It will link millions of residents in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain directly to Bellville, the city’s second largest and most important work destination.

A 30 hour train trip between Joburg and Cape Town makes no sense, and that service should never have been prioritised over getting essential Metrorail links up and running.

Commuter rail must be the priority service. 

 

Issued by Brett Herron, GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament