Holding PRASA Accountable for a Safe and Reliable Public Transport System

At #UniteBehind, we are committed to advocating for a safe, reliable, and accessible public transport system that serves all community members, particularly the poor and working class. The Central Line, one of the most critical components of Cape Town’s railway network, serves as a lifeline for thousands of commuters daily. Its closure, since 2019, due to PRASA’s failure to secure its infrastructure, vandalism, theft, and occupations, has had a devastating impact on the poor & working-class who are served by the Line. The lack of train services has exacerbated issues of unemployment and limiting access to essential services. The Central Line is still mostly closed, with partial service running only from Cape Town to Nyanga. The Central Line’s prolonged closure has underscored the urgent need for a robust and efficient public transport system.

Recent meetings in Koeberg and Mitchell’s Plain organised by PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) and DAG (Development Action Group) have brought some progress updates. However, PRASA’s communication and adherence to timelines remain inadequate, leading to frustrations and unfulfilled promises. This blog post highlights the discussions, timelines, and concerns regarding PRASA’s performance.

Koeberg Meeting – 24 April 2024

On Wednesday, 24 April 2024, #UniteBehind participated in a crucial meeting in Koeberg organised by PRASA and DAG. The meeting aimed to provide updates on PRASA’s efforts to restore the Central Line, a vital component of Cape Town’s railway network. Key attendees included Kagiso Molebe (parliamentary representative), Jaco Cupido (rail recovery programme manager), representatives from protection services, and various organisations such as DAG, Cape Crisis, SANTACO, SAFTU, Vulindlela Youth Activists, People’s Law, and resident associations.

Updates were provided on progress along the Southern Line. Over 800 individuals were relocated to Stock Road from the railway and reserve areas. Ongoing efforts were discussed for the Philippi and Chris Hani Lines, with the goal of having the first operational train from Nyanga to Chris Hani halfway to Kaptainsklip by the first week of May 2024.

Land issues remain a significant hurdle, particularly illegal settlements along the Central Line. In response, PRASA requested assistance from the Western Cape Provincial Government to relocate the households illegally occupying the rail reserves on 10 October 2019. The Provincial Government committed to assisting PRASA, particularly with respect to the Phillippi illegal occupation. Plans include constructing concrete walls to prevent invasions and modernising stations. Philippi was highlighted as a major impediment due to structural issues, including an unsafe bridge and security challenges.

Approximately 25-30 contractors have been engaged for the Central Line recovery. New signalling equipment on the Southern Line aims to enhance communication and increase train frequency. Currently, trains along the Southern Line run about 20 minutes apart, roughly 7-9 trains per hour. PRASA has appointed the Thales Maziya Consortium (TMZ) to restore signalling in most of the Cape corridors, which was completed by the end of March 2024. TMZ is also tasked with repairing signalling towards Nyanga. PRASA has stated that the signalling would be completed by the end of June 2024. This deadline, as usual, has been missed.

Various issues were raised, including housing, platform-train gaps, malfunctioning notice boards, railway security, basic services for Stock Road residents, and the exclusion of disabled individuals. Suggestions included partnering with community forums to ensure safe and reliable transport.

PRASA’s Commitments:

PRASA committed to having all lines operational by the end of July 2024. They promised to implement suggestions from the Transport Indaba and other meetings. The next meeting is scheduled in Mitchell’s Plain with the Department of Transport’s presence assured.

Mitchell’s Plain Meeting – Important Update

A recent community gathering in Mitchell’s Plain provided further insights into PRASA’s plans and progress. PRASA planned to reopen the train line between Nyanga and Philippi by the end of May, but this has not yet been done. Once again, PRASA has missed its own deadline.

884 people from Philippi have been relocated to a temporary area at Stock Road, which is not officially approved for housing. The City of Cape Town has accordingly fined PRASA for its failure to ensure the legal relocation of people living on the tracks in Philippi.

Relocation delays in Langa are also affecting the full restoration of train services. The rail services in Phase 1A (Cape Town to Langa via Pinelands) and Phase 1B (Langa to Bellville via Sarepta) commenced on 26 July 2022 and have been in operation without interruption since. PRASA introduced the rail services in Phase 1C (Langa to Nyanga) on 23 March 2023. Contractors were appointed in September 2023 for the execution of works in these corridors, and the rail services are anticipated to resume limited functionality by July/August 2024 and maximum functionality by 2025/26, subject to completion of re-signalling and rehabilitation of the track on this line.

Despite PRASA’s claims of progress, significant challenges remain. We must hold PRASA accountable to ensure promises are fulfilled and our communities have safe and reliable transportation.

Our Stand at #UniteBehind

While we applaud the progress made, PRASA’s track record of missing deadlines and inadequate communication with stakeholders is highly concerning. As advocates for a safe, reliable, cost-effective, and accessible commuter rail service, we emphasise the following:

  • PRASA must make all tender and contract documents public on its website, which must be easily accessible to the public.
  • PRASA must honour their commitments and adhere to the timelines they have set.
  • Regular and transparent communication with all stakeholders is crucial.
  • Ensuring community input and addressing their concerns must be a priority.
  • The transport system should accommodate the needs of all, including the poor, working-class, elderly, and disabled.

We do not seek to create friction with PRASA but to ensure they deliver on their promises. We aim to achieve a quality commuter rail service that truly benefits our communities.

#UniteBehind will continue to monitor PRASA’s efforts and put pressure on the SOE to complete the restoration of the Central Line in the shortest time possible. We call on all community members and stakeholders to hold PRASA accountable. Together, we can work towards a public transportation system that serves everyone efficiently and safely. Share your thoughts and stay updated by following our blog and participating in our community forums. Let’s ensure our voices are heard and our transportation needs are met.