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Prior to 1990, road and rail based passenger services were provided by the South African Transport Services (SATS), a state-owned entity.

From 1 April 1990, these functions became the responsibility of Transnet Limited and the South African Rail Commuter Corporation Limited (SARCC), companies created in terms of the Legal Succession to the South African Transport Services Act, (Act 9 of 1989). Commuter rail services were transferred to the SARCC but long distance (both road and rail) passenger services continued to be provided by Transnet, which created a number of operating divisions including Spoornet and Autonet, the forerunner of Autopax.

The assets required to operate commuter rail services were allocated to the SARCC on the basis of usage at the time. During 1992, a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Intersite Property Management Services (Pty) Ltd (IPMS), was formed to manage and develop the newly transferred property portfolio.

Transnet operated the commuter rail assets on behalf of the SARCC through Metrorail - an operating unit of Spoornet - until 1996 when Metrorail became a business unit of Transnet.

Under this arrangement, the SARCC owned the commuter rail assets and retained responsibility for capital expenditure and asset maintenance. Metrorail was deemed responsible for operational maintenance. However, the lack of clarity on roles led to problems that impacted negatively on the maintenance of the commuter asset base.

Image of an early steam train

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