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Remarks by the Minister of Transport, Mr. Sibusiso Ndebele (MP), On the Occasion of the Launch of the Request for Proposals For the Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa

19 April 2012

  • Programme Director
  • PRASA Board Chairman: Mr. S’fiso Buthelezi
  • PRASA Group CEO: Mr. Tshepo Lucky Montana
  • PRASA Board Members and Executives
  • The Entire PRASA Family
  • Rail Industry Professionals and Suppliers
  • Comrades and Compatriots
  • Members of the Media
  • Distinguished Guests

The Launch of PRASA’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme is a landmark development in the history of our rail system, and public transport as a whole. It is a proud and significant moment, not only for the transport family, and a victory for the commuting public of South Africa.

This opportunity could not have come at a better time when the current economic environment, of fluctuating fuel prices and global financial turmoil, is presenting challenges for the economy, severely affecting our public transport users. Most importantly, this rolling stock programme forms an integral part of Government’s infrastructure programme, led and championed by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma.

Today, we formally invite manufacturers of rolling stock in South Africa, and all over the world, to submit their bids to win the right to build 7,224 metro coaches, estimated at R123 billion. These are modern trains that will be built in South Africa with the aim of revitalizing our rail engineering industry in the country, promote local manufacturing, create an estimated 65,000 jobs and develop a new generation of railway workers, in the form of engineers and artisans. Today, the market engagements, informal enquiries and lunches come to an end and, with the launch of the RFP. We begin a formal process over the next four months to select suitable partner(s) who will deliver modern technology in line with our economic development objectives. In delivering the new, modern commuter rail fleet, the partner(s) will work with PRASA and Government in a manner that meets the demands of our growing economy, thriving cities as well as the expectations and changing needs of our people.

In 2006, we commemorated 100 years since the Great Mahatma Ghandi was thrown off a train just outside of Pietermaritzburg. A year later, we visited and commemorated the 40th anniversary at the spot where Inkosi Albert Luthuli was tragically killed by a goods train. Overall, it is over 150 years of South African railways when the first train moved in Natal during the 1860’s. However, the technology of the trains when Ghandhi was thrown off a train, and the goods train that apparently killed Inkosi Luthuli, did not differ much.

There have not been significant changes in the technology that underpinned the train system of the times of Mahatma Ghandi and that of Inkosi Albert Luthuli. We have also not made a radical break with the technology of the past.

At the moment, the current rolling stock is old, with the majority of the current coaches built in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and still being driven by 1950 technology. Our rail system has reached the end of its design life. The system, defined in terms of technology, operations, service design and skills, is no longer able to meet passenger expectations and economic demands effectively, and is at a stage where it has to be replaced. We need a revolution in our rail system and our transport system.

The trains we are buying today represent this revolution - a radical break with the past, and the introduction of new technology. The new, modern trains will be similar to trains you see in major cities of the world, in Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Brazil, Portugal, and many developed countries. These modern trains are commonly defined by greater passenger mobility, automatic train protection and high quality of crashworthiness as critical safety features: carrying capacity is high, they are energy efficient and very light, largely based on aluminium rather than heavy steel. These are modern trains which represent the revolution of our times, and the future of travel, we are investing in today.

Rail services play a significant role in the major metropolitan areas in South Africa, and by acknowledging South Africa’s strong railway tradition, PRASA’s key objective is to promote rail as the preferred mode of transport for the majority of our people.

This will, over time, achieve significant economic benefits for the country arising from direct multiplier effects from our investment in rail infrastructure and systems, as well as benefits of an efficient transport system in our cities. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important that, at a significant and a historic moment such as this, we go back in time, reflect on our past, celebrate and pay homage to those who have come before us, those who paved the path for us to be here as Free and proud citizens of Africa and the World, those giants who have given us the possibility to stand here and give a sigh and proclaim: ‘How Far we Slaves Have Come”!

One such Giant was an intellectual, a revolutionary, a fighter for freedom, peace and progress, a leader who dreamt and worked for a future in which his people would use these trains, whose purchase we are announcing today, to access economic, social, educational and recreational opportunities in freedom and dignity. I speak of the First African Nobel Laureate, President General of the African National Congress between 1952 and 1967. I speak of Chief Albert Luthuli. I single out Chief Albert Luthuli because he had a tragic encounter with a train, when he was hit and killed by a train under suspicious and mysterious circumstances on the 21st July 1967, whilst walking near his home in KwaDukuza (Stanger), Kwazulu-Natal.

We therefore, first and foremost, use this announcement, this massive Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme, to pay tribute to Mahatma Ghandi and Inkosi Luthuli, founding fathers of this Democracy we enjoy today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, trains are not simply about steel, about bogies, about perway, about signaling – Trains are about life itself! Metrorail has been, and continues to be, one of the most affordable public transport modes for the urban masses.

We, therefore, also use this occasion to pay tribute to them, and dedicate this programme in their honour. The train system was used to inflict grave pain and suffering on the Urban Poor, and Working Masses, during the days of Apartheid. We saw death squads being unleashed on train commuters, during the late 80’s and early 90’s in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal, inflicting great pain and suffering, leaving scars that will not heal. Government will use this programme to salute these unsung heroes and heroines of our country, and pay homage to them by delivering a world class Rolling Stock Fleet for their heirs and fellow countrymen and women.

Ladies and gentlemen, this programme, we announce today, is not just about depots, infrastructure and steel. Trains are about Life! The Passenger Train system of this country has been a source of pain, joy and hope. It has also, in spite of the misery of Apartheid and our people’s heroic resistance to it, inspired creativity in the Arts. Will we ever forget Hugh Masekela’s beautiful Song, Stimela which captured hope, pain and joy all in one? And today, a Child of Freedom, Zahara has re-sung trains into our lives, in a most beautiful manner, with her wonderful song, Loliwe.

Metrorail, especially in the mid-80’s and through to the early 90’s, became a metaphor for South African Black Urban life, representing motion, activity and a forward march to freedom! Remember how Metroblitz became so popular during the mid-80’s, among those travelling between Pretoria – Germiston - Johannesburg at 160 km/h. We must use this programme to pay tribute to the Urban Working Class and Poor, who defied the Apartheid Regime, by flocking en masse to Anti-Apartheid rallies using Metrorail defiantly in their hundreds of thousands, to go to the launch of the UDF, COSATU, the Defiance campaign in 1989, to many protest marches and rallies, and most memorably, to celebrate the release of Isithwalandwe, Hero of our Nation, Nelson Mandela, at the Grand Parade in Cape Town, and across the country in February 1990.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Government, through PRASA, is at the forefront to transform public transport in South Africa, and facilitate greater access to socio-economic opportunities for the urban and rural poor. In addition, PRASA is focusing its energy on the creation of a commuter rail service that will form an integral part of an efficient transport system for our country, to provide decent public transport services to all South Africans, and to stimulate the rail manufacturing and supply industry in our country.

As Government, we are confident that PRASA’s vision, to be the leading provider of passenger services by 2015, is becoming a reality. It will be through this that PRASA will provide a safe, reliable and modern passenger rail service to all South Africans. Most of our communities still face grinding poverty, and do not enjoy access to reliable public transport services. Yet, for some years now, we have been talking of Integrated Rapid Public Transport Systems that link buses, trains and taxis. This has to be a reality of our time. We have invested billions as a country since 2007, to create the basis of a modern public transport system that will be accessible to all. We are on course to deliver on this goal.

Our transport goal is about promoting public transport over private car use. Transport policy also seeks to reduce the costs of transport for poor and middle-income households, with the poor still carrying the burden of an inefficient transport system, rooted in the geography of apartheid, where the majority continues to live far from places of work.

I am satisfied that Government, through the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks (IRPTNs), has developed concrete plans for each of our major cities, and has started implementing strategies that will ensure that we deliver integrated quality public transport in the key cities of our country by 2015.

The majority of our people do not have access to a private car, and it is important for Government to invest in a more reliable, affordable and safe public transport for all our citizens. I have followed the debate about the tolling of roads. I know that people are used to the comfort of their vehicles, however, this is no longer sustainable for our cities and economy. We have to find sustainable transport solutions of the modern period. It is unfortunate that the information we hear and read in the media is simply not assisting to inform and educate the public about what is at stake, and what better alternatives are available to them.

Among the stories repeated with so much ease is that there is no public transport for the people of Johannesburg. Anyone who is interested to check will realize that people have more choices in respect of public transport in Gauteng than any other part of the country. For anyone living in Tshwane, Midrand or the North of Johannesburg, there is the Gautrain that will take you 37 minutes on average on its journey between Pretoria and Sandton, and of course 12 minutes to the airport. There is about seven Metrorail Business Express Trains on every working day, with four journey trips from Pretoria to Johannesburg, for a journey time of an hour at an average cost of R1,057 per month, and three trains between Naledi and Johannesburg, with journey times of 40 minutes for a monthly cost of R413 per month. This must be compared with the operating cost of a private vehicle, of almost R1,800 a month, plus the almost 1,5 hours of travel time on some of the un-tolled roads within Gauteng. I have further instructed PRASA to improve on its Business Express offering, and ensure that we provide such service every 30 minutes in the peak hours.

The improvements on the Ben Schoeman Highway, as a direct result of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, has made it possible to travel and connect between Pretoria and Johannesburg within an hour, compared to roads that are not tolled where the travel times are higher and congestion remains the order of the day.

It, therefore, does not make sense that motorists fail to get this vital information so available to everyone, and insist on travel methods that are not sustainable and will increase the cost for everyone in the economy. Government has a duty to find sustainable solutions that put public investment in favour of the majority who do not have access to a vehicle, rather than be persuaded by the powerful car lobby that seem to enjoy prominence in the media. The 2015 vision will be achieved primarily through two interventions: firstly, a series of direct infrastructure investments through the Modernization Programme by PRASA valued at approximately R25.9 billion over the next three years in preparation for the new rolling stock. Secondly, through Government’s investment in the New Rolling Stock Acquisition Programme, estimated at R123 billion. Both these interventions will result in the first elements of a modern commuter train system being put in place from 2015 onwards.

It is prudent that we plan ahead, and increase and improve our public transport systems, comprised of rail and road modes to ease the burden on our commuters.

As Minister of Transport, I have a duty to ensure that transport delivers quality, reliable, safe and affordable services to all our citizens. I must say that as we pursue this objective, we need to ensure that transport infrastructure is delivered in a manner that contributes to our social and economic objectives as a country.

In the context of the Fleet Renewal Programme, we have pursued a number of important economic objectives. We have directed that local manufacturing, local content, job creation, skills development and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Objectives are defined upfront, and that these are not compromised in the process. For example, the impact of expenditure at 65% level of localization is estimated over the period ahead to create approximately 65,992 new direct and indirect jobs.

As a transport family, we welcomed the Minister of Finance, Mr. Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Vote Speech, when he announced the first roll out of the R4bn allocation to PRASA for the acquisition of new rolling stock, and R1bn for the construction of new train depots and signaling infrastructure. The R4bn and R1bn respective allocations are a start of the roll-out allocation of the R123bn for new rolling stock acquisition, and R14.5bn for new rail signaling, already set aside by Government last year. These allocations now allow us to issue the Request for Proposals to the market, which will be in the Press this weekend. The New Rolling Stock Programme is set to continue for the next 20 years.

I must also take this opportunity to thank the various Government Departments such as National Treasury, Trade and Industry and Public Enterprises, for contributing their time in making this a reality. Through this programme, we witnessed a positive development where Government Departments and public entities worked in collaboration to deliver on a massive public investment and infrastructure programme. We thank the other entities such as the National Empowerment Fund and IDC for working in partnership, and contributing their skills and knowledge to this programme, so that our economic goals are fully achieved. Indeed, effective coordination remains a key factor in the successful delivery of infrastructure.

PRASA’s Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme will serve as the catalyst for Government’s comprehensive passenger rail programme over the next 30 years. We will implement over the next decade a number of rail interventions, aimed at putting rail as the backbone of our passenger transport system. In the short-term, we will recapitalize Metrorail so that it delivers on its mandate, whilst Transnet has also embarked on a major programme to revolutionalize the freight rail system, through the acquisition of new locomotives and bringing about operational efficiencies and improved turnaround times.

In the medium term, we envisage a change in the manner in which the rail network is managed so that it contributes to meet the demands of our modern times. I demand nothing less from PRASA, in terms of making drastic improvements to its Shosholoza Meyl service offering, so that we bring back more reliability and that in the next five years, we reduce by half the travel times in key corridors such as Pretoria – Polokwane – Musina and Johannesburg – Durban. It is important that the train should be the fastest, moving at an average speed of 160km on the current network. A train travelling at 160km must be faster than a car, taxi and bus, which by law are required to travel at not more than 120 km/h.

The long-term plan looks at new technologies and ensures that high-speed railway becomes part of the transport landscape of South Africa. The future of inter-city travel clearly lies in high-speed railways, and our modernization programme will be incomplete without the introduction of high-speed technologies on our shores, and linking with other cities in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole. It is possible that a migrant worker from Newcastle in KZN would be able to travel to work in the morning at 350 km/h, and travel to work in Johannesburg or Durban, yet still be able to watch television with his children at home in the evening and help them with their homework. This is the revolution in transport that we are pursuing.

Government is working tirelessly to build a passenger rail system that will ensure all South Africans travel with dignity, on a reliable world-class rail system.

We are laying the foundations for a developed South Africa by 2020. The material basis for a transition, from being a developing to a developed country, lies in infrastructure development and skills development. We need to create the mindset that it is possible, and we are part of the next generation to drive our second vision of a developed country with the infrastructure and skills.

Our first vision was of a free and democratic country, but now the imperative is of making that major transformation. We have seen great leaders and philosophers such as Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam of India, being forceful and raising the level of his countrymen and women, with his assertion that, “To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal”. This is a clarion call to the nation to rise to the challenge of our times, and believe that we are part of the next generation to build a developed South Africa of our dreams.

In conclusion, the launch of the PRASA Request for Proposal and communication, to start the R123bn procurement process, indeed marks a new dawn, and a great development, in the history of South Africa’s public transport system. We make this bold announcement today, in honour of a Man of Freedom and Peace, Isithwalandwe, Nobel Laureate, Chief Albert Luthuli and the memory of that great patriot, Mahatma Ghandi so that never again shall our people experience the indignity of being thrown off a train because of the colour of their skin.

Distinguished guests and fellow South Africans , ladies and gentlemen, after months of planning, consultations and preparatory work involving Government Departments and PRASA, I therefore, as Minister of Transport, declare the bidding process for the Procurement of the New Rolling Stock, formally open.



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