Tag Archive | commuters

Green Paper on rail transport published

sent to clients 12 October…..

National rail policy mapped out…..

metrorailA Green Paper on South Africa’s National Rail Policy has been published for comment naming the country’s challenges in rail transportation, recommending policy direction and containing broad proposals for the way forward to develop the current rail network.

Gazetted recently, the Green Paper represents work commenced in 2010 and says the document “Seeks to revitalise the local railway industry by means of strategic policy interventions”.   Not only is freight rail included in the proposals but long-distance rail passenger and localised commuter services.

Road dominates at a cost

Minister Peters said in a media statement at the time that railways in South Africa had operated for almost more than a century without a proper overarching policy framework to guide development.   “The railway line and its railway stations have played a pivotal role in the day-to-day lives of communities, especially those in the rural areas, but as far as freight is concerned, 89% of freight is still transported by road and the future of commuter rail conducted on an ad hoc basis”.

roadsThe emphasis of road transport is costing the country millions of rands annually in road maintenance, money that could have been well spent on developing freight rail, she said.

The process

Cabinet last month approved the release of the Green Paper for public consultation. When all is finished, a final White Paper on National Rail Policy will be released to guide and direct development of infrastructure and develop more modern commuter systems. A National Rail Act will be the final result of the White Paper.

These interventions, according to Minister Peters, will reposition both passenger and freight rail for inherent competitiveness by “exploiting rail’s genetic technologies to increase axle load, speed, and train length.“

Lining things up

railway lineWider-gauge technologies are on the cards.   The government has said it is converting 20 000km of track to standard gauge from the narrower Cape gauge. This would bring the network in line with an African Union resolution on the subject and at the same time would boost capacity of goods carried, with longer trains and a reduction in transportation costs.

With both passenger and freight rail falling within its scope, part of the envisaged national transport policy includes involvement by the department of transport (DOT) in the local government sphere to create capabilities to move more passengers by rail with infrastructure, more rail line and technical assistance.

Creating local commuter rail

Secondly, once the localised capacity is in place, DOT says it will be able to appropriate subsidies for urban commuter rail, the management of the mini-systems then being devolved to municipalities themselves.

The Green Paper talks of investment and funding, private sector participation, inter-connection with the sub-Continent, skills planning, investment strategies and the start of a regulatory system.     Part of the master plan at operations level would include a branch line strategy with the private sector involved to improve connection between cities with towns and industrial areas.

Other articles in this category or as background

Transnet improves on road to rail switch – ParlyReportSA

South Africa remains without rail plan – ParlyReportSA

Minister comments on taxi and rail plans – ParlyReportSA

PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started – ParlyReport

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Troubled bus industry goes to Parliament

SA bus industry operators in trouble

lowveld-bus-The South African bus system is on the verge of collapse, says the Southern Africa Bus Operators Association (SABOA) and, as the second largest mode of transport in SA behind only taxi transport, this fact was bad news for both commuters and those in industry and commerce whose workers use it extensively, Parliament was told.

Professor Jackie Walters, of the University of Johannesburg and strategic advisor to SABOA, told the portfolio committee on transport that, by its nature, the bus industry in South Africa was partially subsidised and was one of the only countries in the world that seemed to manage on month-to-month contracts.

Subsidies out of date

The bus industry in the past, in order to receive it’s subsidies, worked its calculations on the basis of commuters carried but the industry had slowly switched to contracts where kilometers covered are now the basis for calculation, a preferable system in the industry.  However there had been no extensions or expansion allowed in kilometers covered by subsidies for thirteen years.

Prof. Walters maintained that the bus industry performed a critical role in balancing demand and the pricing system within the public transport system.

The policy applicable to the commuter bus industry was founded on the White Paper on National Transport Policy of 1996, and in a number of other documents such as the Moving South Africa Strategy (MSA), the National Land Transport Transition Act of 2000 (NLTTA) as well as a Model Tender Document and the Heads of Agreement (HOA) between organised labour and the Department of Transport (DOT).

Money disappearing

He told parliamentarians that it was the Southern African Bus Operators Association (SABOA) that regulated aspects of the tendering system but the industry was under stress due to the unintended consequences of Division of Revenue Act (DORA) and the bus contracting system to the government, which was supposed to provide financial stability for industry. Whilst funds may be allocated under DORA to provinces, what happened after that was out of control of central government.

The financial stability intended for the bus industry to provide for commuters was a theory but on the ground quite the opposite was happening, he maintained.   This short-term horizon for the industry made longer-term investment decisions difficult and banks were reluctant to provide funding because of the uncertainty over the future of the contracts.  “No industry can operate on this basis‚” Prof. Walters said.

No windfalls, no shortfalls even

He attributed the problem again to the negative effect of DORA, which left it to provinces to make up the difference between the public transport operations grant allocated to provinces by national treasury and an agreed-upon escalation rate‚ which was linked to increases in the consumer price index.  Provinces continually claimed that they did not have the money to make up the shortfall.

Prof. Walters said the government had not taken into account at any stage the onerous operational cost increases that bus companies had to bear; namely 44% for labour‚ 28% for maintenance and the national escalation on fuel. There had to be risk sharing between government and the operators, he said.

 

No conformity

There were different types of contracts in the industry, he went on to explain, some which were seventeen years old and which were supposed to have been transformed after three years with competitive tendering and negotiation of contracts.

He said that in all there were 39 interim contracts in operation, 66 tender contracts and 10 negotiated contracts. The contract types in operation were based on a user-pays principle regarding the subsidies.

In conclusion, Prof Walters said that above all it was important to get national treasury to acknowledge the contracts and not leave things to the provinces.

DOT to investigate

MPs generally agreed that in the longer term, common ticketing systems over all services in the country generally had to be introduced, similar to that in the BRT system but a short term answer also had to be found to keep the industry alive in terms of the explanations from Dr Walters. 

DOT was told to  report back to Parliament.

Refer previous articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/transport-subsidies-to-business-are-wrong-says-parliament/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/all-not-well-in-the-trucking-industry/

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