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Wednesday Nov 02, 2011

20-year catch-up plan to replace all of country's trains, upgrade infrastructure

A major revamp of Cape Town's rail system is in sight, with the replacement of all trains and the construction of new depots and stations, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) told Parliament yesterday.

Prasa plans to spend R123 billion to modernise the national rail system, subject to the government approving its budget, creating 65 000 jobs.

Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana told Parliament's portfolio committee on transport the roll-out of the system would start in three years and take 20 years to complete.

All trains would be replaced.

The Western Cape will get 1 835 of 7 224 new trains Prasa plans to acquire.

Prasa's fleet renewal programme would involve the introduction of modern rail technology and the revival of the local rail engineering industry, the committee heard.

Montana said 360 new coaches would be built annually for 20 years, and during this period 65 000 jobs would be created.

"Provinces are already tossing coins over where the plants should be," he quipped. Up to 65 percent of components would be made in South Africa.

Fast trains were not planned in metropolitan areas where stations are close to one another and where speeds would not exceed 120 km/h, but high-speed trains were planned for intercity journeys, he said.

An additional R13bn would be spent on infrastructure development before the building of the new trains. About R3bn would be spent on the construction of new depots in Cape Town and Gauteng, while Durban's depot would cost R1bn, Montana said.

The first new trains would run on the Kapteinsklip and Khayelitsha routes. Montana said improved commuter safety and the creation of a new generation of skilled railway workers were other spin-offs of the project.

"We have missed out on three rail revolutions and we are trying to reverse that," he said.

New trains would be lighter, more energy efficient and would not be pulled by a head coach, as all coaches would have traction. Technology and safety features would enable trains to stop automatically when something went wrong, he said.

Montana said railway infrastructure and technology had reached the end of its lifespan, resulting in an inefficient transport system and a negative economic impact on commuters.

The average age of the fleet was 38 years, he said.

A feasibility study on the new system had been approved by a steering committee comprising the National Treasury, Public Enterprises, Trade and Industry and the Rail Safety Regulator, and had been presented to Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.

According to the project's timelines, budget approval is expected early next year, contract negotiations are targeted for January 2013 and the first test train is to be delivered early in 2015.

Committee members applauded the presentation.

Cape Times


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