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Keynote Address at the Launch of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa

20 March 2009

Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Gauteng Transport MEC, Ignatius Jacobs
Transport MECs
Tourism MECs
Director - General Ms Mpumi Mpofu
SARCC CEO, Mr. Lucky Montana
Commissioner Venter
CEOs and Board Members of transport agencies
Members of the Transport Portfolio Committee
All Municipal MMCs for Transport
Representatives of Labour
Leaders of Rail Commuter Forums
CEOs for Rail Engineering Firms
Members of the SAPS
Distinguished Guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

Programme Director, our presence here today marks a new dawn and a turning point in our endeavour to speed up the implementation of our integrated public transport system. As we witness the launch of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) today, the theme for this event, “Moving people, Building relations and Driving Value”, could not have come at any better time than now as this development depicts the efficient movement of our masses through public transport.
In fact, our efforts to transform our public transport system is gaining more ground and underpins our ambitions as Government to promote the economy and social development of our people through safe, reliable and efficient public transport, using improved infrastructure and advanced transport technological systems.

This development could not have come at any better time, as we are counting down to host the most prestigious event South Africa has never hosted before – the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some of you would be aware of my department’s National Household Travel Survey (NHTS 2003) that revealed pathetic results of the country’s travel and transport patterns. The survey revealed that:

  • 7 million workers and learners use public transport
  • 7 million citizens use a car
  • 40 million citizens do not have a driver’s licence
  • 38 million citizens live in households with no access to a car
  • 13.7 million citizens use public transport at least once a week

These figures ladies and gentlemen, reflected a clear challenge of how our transport services and infrastructure are expected to be focused, planned and budgeted for. No economy in the whole word can sustain growth without a credible and sound public transport system.
Clearly as they show, the NHTS figures indicate that despite huge volumes of car sales and use, public transport remains a dominant factor in the day to day activities of the majority of South Africans with regard to mobility.

Huge numbers of South Africans must be transported to work, schools, clinics and centres for services on a daily basis. Distinguished guests, it is against this background that the Cabinet approved the Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan 2007 to 2020 in March 2007. The implementation of this strategy is our measurement of how effective can we address transport challenges amongst our people. Our efforts to propel growth and development would be identified by the success and efficiency of our transport system that should be geared towards economic growth.

The key areas of our strategy consist of:

  • Peak frequencies of 5 to 10 minutes
  • Off peak frequencies of between 10 to 30 minutes
  • Extended hours of operation to between 16 to 24 hours
  • Safe and secure operation monitoring by Intelligent Transport System Control Centres
  • Car use competitive public transport option which enable strict peak period car use management
  • Electronic fare integration and single ticketing when making transfers
  • Integrated feeder service including walking, cycling , bus and taxi networks

As Government, we remain committed to job creation and investments in infrastructure so that our economy will not slow down even in very difficult times of threats of global recession. It is impressive to note that PRASA employs 13 000 people and comprises of four distinct businesses that include:

  • Metrorail – Urban Commuter Rail Division – delivering commuter rail services in major metropolitan areas
  • Shosholoza Meyl – Long distance rail division – responsible for regional and ( inter-city) rail based passenger transport services
  • Autopax (City to City & Translux) – Bus Subsidiary – focusing on road based regional ( inter – city) passenger services
  • Intersite – Property Subsidiary – Responsible for property management and development of the property portfolio.

I must stress that the integral part of this approach comprise of PRASA Rail Priority Corridors, the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link as well as Bus Rapid Transit Corridors. At this juncture, I want to encourage taxi and bus operators to participate fully in the operation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that is aimed at make travelling safer, efficient and reliable. The BRT is a key component of the Rapid Integrated Transport Networks and it will benefit taxi and bus operators, commuters and workers. As Government, our doors are open to engage the taxi and bus industries so that this system could show a lasting legacy of a profound and sustainable public transport system that is of benefit to the present and future generation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I must mention that although the transformation of our public transport system requires more work to be done, our milestones for a better public transport has shown the benefits of coordinated work between the three spheres of Government. The spirit of teaming up together to produce better services will always remain at the core of the ANC mandate.

The Launch of PRASA is indeed a momentous milestone for public transport in our country. We made a commitment as the ANC Government during the third democratic Government in 2004 that we will work for a better public transport for all South Africans as we prepare for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We made a strong commitment that as we prepare for the World Cup, we will leave a lasting legacy that will also facilitate greater access to economic and employment opportunities for the rural and urban poor of our country.

The public transport interventions the Government has implemented are beginning to bear fruit. The strategy is about creating integrated rapid public transport networks. Among the key interventions adopted back in 2004 included the strategy to arrest the decline in commuter rail service. I am glad to report that we have managed through these interventions and focused investments, managed to stabilize commuter rail services. There are indeed still many challenges facing our people commuting on the rail system and it is our intention and commitment as the ANC Government, to accelerate the process of change and ensure that we have a rail system that fulfils its role and responsibility as the backbone of our transport system. I am confident that we are on course to restoring this mode to its historic position so that we are able to meet the challenges of the future.

Our confidence is informed by some of the important milestones already achieved by the SARCC over the past 30 months. The SARCC has since the 2006/07 Financial year refurbished over 1 489 coaches to the tune of R4 billion, as part of its Accelerated Rolling Stock Programme. The ANC Government also made a strategic decision to re-introduce the SAPS Railway Police, which has seen over 2 500 Police Officers deployed in the rail environment, which has contributed to crime in our trains being reduced by over 38%. I have also visited and take pride in the fact that key infrastructure projects such as the Khayelitsha Rail Extension and Bridge City have been implemented. As part of its customer improvement programme, we have seen the SARCC allocating R300 million over the next three years for its Station Improvement Programme, which is aimed at bringing about quick and visible improvements such as addressing lighting, fencing, toilets, painting, etc. A total amount of R73 million of the budgeted R135 million has already been spent this year to refurbish 105 stations this financial year.
Among the key stations going through the National Station Improvement Programme are Horizon, Westbury, Roodepoort, Tshiawelo, Phomolong, Vereeniging, Home Lake, Oos Rand, Charlottesdale, Phoenix, Mount Edgecombe, Umhlali, etc.

Notwithstanding the late start in the delivery of 2010 infrastructure, we are satisfied with the progress being made by the SARCC in the upgrading of station such as NASREC, Loftus, Doornfontein, Cape Town is at an advanced stage, with contractors already on site for the upgrading of station such as Orlando Station, North End, NASREC Link, Lynross, Wonderboom, KwaMashu, Langa, Park Station and Naledi. Construction is due to commence in April for the upgrading of stations such as KwaMyandu, Langa, Athlone, Heideveld, Moses Mabhida, Rhodesfield, Windermere, which will be ready by April 2010.

The launch of Prasa today constitutes continuity in the change the ANC Government has embarked upon since April 1994 and the tasks we set ourselves after the electoral mandate of 2004. The ANC Government created Prasa as a vehicle, an instrument to champion and advance its efforts aimed at the transformation of our public transport system. PRASA has an important role to play in creating the platform from which its business units: Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl, Autopax and Intersite will be expected to deliver high-quality and low-cost transport services. PRASA presents us with the real possibility to provide frequent public transport services in the rural areas.

The establishment of PRASA brings with it a unique feature – the possibility to provide integrated transport solutions through its control of commuter rail, inter-city, long-distance rail and road-based long-distance buses. The presence of buses within PRASA in particular gives it the kind of flexibility to respond effectively to passenger demands with the real option to provide feeder and distribution services. As you are aware, integration between transport modes is key to ensuring the seamless and efficient movement of people.

PRASA should focus on ensuring that these entities deliver on our commitment for service excellence whilst its primary role is one of investment on transport infrastructure and capacity to meet current and future passenger demands. PRASA is expected to manage and develop its assets and ensure that these are really exploited fully to meet its own operating costs. We specifically expect Prasa through its property arm, Intersite, to begin to focus its unleashing the value in its property portfolio through the commercial development of its stations and landholdings, both as a way of enhancing passenger’s experience and generating income from the exploitation of its assets.

Most importantly, PRASA must be at the forefront of our efforts to modernize, on the passenger side, South African railways. In this context, the pursuit of new railway technologies is key if our railways systems will adequately respond to the many challenges of the future. PRASA must ensure that light rail and high-speed trains becomes part of South Africa’s transport landscape over the next ten years.

Through the Launch of this important public transport entity, I wish to affirm that the transformation of public transport will be further accelerated after the elections. We, as the ANC government, have a real plan to create a better and decent public transport and rural development wherein Prasa will be expected to play a central role through the delivery of infrastructure, employment creation and training of employees.

I am aware that both the SARCC and Transnet are finalizing the Sale of Business Agreements for both Shosholoza Meyl and Autopax to be transferred to PRASA as required by the law promulgated by the President of the Republic in December 2008. It is important that both parties work together and make sure that the letter and spirit of this important legislation is fully realized.

I am however concerned by media reports that the employees of Transnet that are due for transfer in April 2009 have not been adequately consulted. I find this totally unacceptable to say the least. It is the duty of the employer, Transnet in this case, to consult with their employees and this should be well on time. Transnet knew for over 3 years that Shosholoza Meyl will be transferred whilst the decision on Autopax was taken early in 2008 already. As the ANC, we have always championed the rights of workers and will always ensure that these are respected at all times. We had passed legislation after legislation to protect the rights of our workers and the least we could do is to ensure that Government and State-Owned Entities respect provisions of our law that protects employees. I urge Transnet to conclude these consultations without further delay so that the transfer of these two entities is finalised within agreed timeframes and as per requirements of the Labour Relations Act.

In conclusion, I also wish to take this opportunity again to thank the Portfolio Committee on Transport under the leadership of my Comrade, Jeremy Cronin, a Member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and Deputy General Secretary of the SACP. The Portfolio Committee played a major role in passing this legislation and I want to thank all members of the Committee from all Parties for making sure that this legislation is passed on time and take forward the public transport goals we have set ourselves as the ANC Government. I would also like to thank the role played by the Transport MINMEC in achieving such very important development goals. The Department of Transport and the Director-General worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth passing of amendments to the Legal Succession Act, co-operating with the Portfolio Committee on Transport. Of course I would also like to congratulate Metrorail on the very good progress being made with regards to the PRASA initiatives.


I thank you!

By    Mr. Jeff Radebe, MP
Minister of Transport
Park Station, Johannesburg

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