#UniteBehind Media Statement: Government’s focus should be on rail and not roads.
#UniteBehind notes with grave concern reports that funds are to be diverted from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to South Africa’s National Roads Agency (Sanral).
According to a report in the City Press this weekend, government is set to divert R2 billion from PRASA to help with e-tolls debt, caused by non-payment of motorists. Shifting money from rail to roads is unacceptable.
In last year’s medium-term budget policy statement, R3 billion of PRASA’s funding was moved to Sanral. We understand that PRASA has not been able to spend its capital allocation, but that is because there has been no disaster management plan. Government cannot starve PRASA of desperately-needed capital.
Commuter rail is vital and should be the most affordable, efficient and convenient form of public transport. However, it has been crippled by a decade of corruption and maladministration. Our concern is that the new government will follow a policy of divestment in rail because PRASA needs money to be fixed. However PRASA needs more than money to be fixed, it urgently requires a disaster management plan, disaster management team, and a permanent board of control.
We have also been calling for a national disaster to be declared on commuter rail for more than a year. This would unlock government funds to be able to sustain PRASA and commuter rail. Diverting government funds away from PRASA will make it even more difficult to #FixOurTrains.
Commuter rail is vital to growing our economy, ending spatial apartheid in our cities, as well as tackling the climate emergency. Hundreds of thousands of working-class commuters rely on trains to get them to school and work across the country. We cannot allow commuter rail to fail.
#UniteBehind is a coalition of people’s movements joined by legal, policy and research organisations working for a just and equal society where the people share in the country’s wealth and our environment is protected for future generations.