Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has congratulated the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) on the reopening of the central line in Cape Town, as services resumed for the first time in two years.
Cape Town’s central line
Mbalula on Tuesday morning took a train ride on the critical central line after it was closed in 2019 due to theft, vandalism and people occupying land illegally on the rail network.
Prasa on Tuesday reopened the central corridor from Cape Town to Langa via Pinelands, and Langa to Bellville via Sarepta. The service resumption formed part of phase one of the central line recovery programme.
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During his oversight visit, Mbalula was joined by Prasa’s board and management as well as Western Cape Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell, among other key stakeholders.
However, the minister was unhappy that his train arrived late in Cape Town and raised concerns about the central corridor’s management.
Mbalula told train commuters he was not convinced that the service would be run professionally to ensure trains arrive on time, and the rail infrastructure would be properly maintained.
“I’m happy that the service is back, but I’m not happy about what is going to happen when I’m gone.
“I’ve got no guarantee that this thing [train service] is being run professionally and proper by the right people. I’m not convinced,” the minister said.
While Mbalula said he was happy that the central line was now operational, he said the central corridor had been on “autopilot” for the past two years without proper management in place.
“What is failing us is the fact that this place has been on autopilot [and] there were no managers. The only time the response came [from management] is when there is a crisis and the train did go on time,” he said.
The minister promised commuters that Prasa would address the issue of trains arriving on time and other challenges faced by the embattled state-owned rail agency.
“I’m aware of the criminal elements on the line, the threats and all that… When I arrived here, early in the morning, I got an announcement that the train is delayed, I want an operation that is running convincingly,” he said.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe