Oversight on rail infrastructure upgrades and readiness to resume commuter rail services in Western Cape


17 January 2022


I invited Judge Dennis Davis following my interview with him last year, to give him a sense of progress made in rehabilitating the rail infrastructure and ensuring readiness for the resumption of commuter rail services in different corridors.  He was gracious enough to accept my invitation and he joined me on the train ride and infrastructure inspections this morning. 


Since the declaration of the state of disaster and the restriction on travel, PRASA had to cease all commuter rail operations.  Considering that PRASA operates an open network that is not adequately fenced in, the lines were exposed and became victim to wholesale theft and vandalism. 

Despite the easing of the travel restrictions, the vandalism forced Metrorail to stop operations on several lines, including the Northern Line, as critical infrastructure had either been stolen or vandalised.


PRASA’s Western Cape Region operates a total of 121 stations up to Worcester in the North, Simonstown on the Southern line and Chris Hani and Kapteinsklip station on the Central Line.  Operations on all these lines and corridors are monitored from this state-of-the-are Rail Management and Traffic Centre (RMTC).  This centre also monitors the infrastructure, including signalling and is able to provide a bird’s eye-view of the entire commuter rail network in the Province.


The Northern Line corridor consists of 34 stations, the Southern Line including the Cape Flats section has 38 stations.  The Central Line consists of 21 stations and iKapa area has 10 stations.


All 38 stations on the Southern Line are in good operating condition requiring minor maintenance work.
However, there are two stations of great concern that will be upgraded as part of the National Station Improvement Programme (NSIP) and are both in the Cape Flats.  These are Athlone and Maitland stations.


The vast majority of stations on the Northern Line are in a fair condition and this corridor had been a focus of PRASA’s station improvement program. Out of 34 stations, 5 of these had suffered extreme vandalism and are in a bad state of repair. These are Parow, Firgrove, Fisantekraal, Faure and Koelenhof.


All 21 stations in the Central Line require extensive upgrade and had been prioritised as part of the PRASA Central Line Presidential Project. The stations on the Central Line are at different stages of upgrade as part of the NSIP, which commenced this financial year and due for completing in the First Quarter of the 2022/2023 financial year.


PRASA had committed to complete upgrades in 39 stations in the current financial year.  The Western Cape Region is responsible for 5 of these stations. Significant progress has been registered in the upgrades as follows:

  • Eikenfontein station improvements and upgrades have been completed, at a cost of R11.1 million
  • Elsiesrivier station improvements and upgrades have been completed, at a cost of R8.6 million
  • Tygerberg station improvements and upgrades are at 95% completion, at a cost of R10.1 million
  • Vasco station improvements and upgrades are at 95% completion, at a cost of R12.3 million
  • Thornton station improvements and upgrades are at 85% completion, at a cost of R10.5 million
  • Ysterplaat station improvements and upgrades are at 70% completion, at a cost of R9.4 million


These improvements and upgrades constitute:

  • Improvement in security and security features  
  • Access and egress and overall appearance of the station
  • Station lighting
  • Passenger information                 
  • Staff facilities (ticketing offices)
  • Passenger shelters               
  • Ablution facilities
  • Paintwork                              
  • Subway and pedestrian bridges improvement
  • Platforms including tact tiles.

Work continues to restore commuter rail services in the Province.  To date PRASA has restored services in 5 of the 7 corridors, namely:

  • The Southern line

    On 28 December 2021, we returned to service the Retreat to Fish Hoek service after a 2-months shut down as a result of vandalism.  The Fish Hoek to Simonstown service was returned to service on 5 January 2022.

  • The Northern line
  • Cape Flats line
  • Cape Town to Langa
  • Cape Town to Kraaifontein


The resumption of services on the Cape Town to Bellville and Cape Town via Pinelands line is scheduled for March 2022.  The Bellville service will operate via the newly upgraded Northern Line stations.  The Pinelands service will result in easier connections and access for commuters travelling from Langa and surrounding areas to the Cape Flats and the Athlone Line, as well as to the Southern line that links from Pinelands to Retreat Station.


The bigger work remains the recovery of the Central Line Presidential Project.  We are currently in the midst of implementing Phase 1 of the Central Line recovery to introduce the Langa to Cape Town Service via Pinelands.  This is to allow for the relocation of illegal settlements on the rail tracks. 


The return to service of commuter rail services is within the context of the broader repositioning of commuter rail as the backbone of our public transport system. 


The White Paper on National Rail Policy, which will be tabled before Cabinet in the coming weeks, firmly articulates structural and operational changes we will be introducing to achieve this.  The Rail Policy will introduce radical measures to overhaul the country’s rail system to make it competitive, efficient, safe and reliable.  This includes the introduction of private sector participation and concessions in both passenger and freight rail.


I am satisfied that the infrastructure upgrades are on track to salvage a dilapidated a network that has been brought to its knees by criminal conduct.  These upgrades will be reinforced by a security model that relies on tight collaboration with law enforcement authorities and intelligence services to ensure effective protection of these public assets.


I have no doubt that we will meet the deadline to return the Central line to full service by the end of July 2022, while we continue with the re-signalling project.


Committed to delivering high quality passenger service on sustainable bases


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