Tag Archive | Lucky Montana

PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started

Thousands of new coaches to be built for a start…..

Delivery of the first of new rail car rolling stock will start arriving in South Africa during the beginning of 2015 with a factory being built in South Africa to complete the balance of 3,600 new coaches, all being part of a R51bn passenger coach contract recently concluded  by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) with Gibela Rail Transportation.

CEO of PRASA, Lucky Montana, told the parliamentary committee on transport two weeks ago that the entire the current fleet would be replaced in the course of time and all trains, both commuter and long distance, would boast high level security, bigger seats, a new shape and better communication and technology.    A statement was issued in early December confirming that the tender had been won by Gibela.

Worldwide tender process instigated

Minister Sibusiso Ndebele instigated the tender system for new rolling stock in mid-April this year “inviting manufacturers from all over the world to participate in the procurement process” and during the launch indicated a target of 65% localisation target as part of the bid conditions for the new rolling stock.

He said then that “PRASA must ensure the manufacture of an estimated 7,224 Metrorail coaches nationally to meet the passenger demand over the next 20 years as well as the upgrading and the construction of new rail infrastructure such as depots facilities and signalling.”    Investment projects at key national high-passenger demand corridors in KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng were critical he said.

Hand in hand with necessary infrastructure

In addition, PRASA is currently implementing a series of such as the construction of a rail link for the Bridge City development north of Durban as well as the Greenview doubling project east of Tshwane “which will address the archaic single rail design and cater for the increased demands for a more efficient service in this area”.

Over 50 station upgrades, the building of new stations and developing “intermodal hubs” are underway in conjunction with local and provincial governments.  Montana said at the time,  “We have chosen strategic high-passenger corridors as our key upgrade corridors where the demand for our service is quite high with an average 30,000 to 60,000 passengers at peak hours”.

As far as the new contract is concerned, Montana said this week, “It was a mistake for South Africa to not invest in railway for the past 33 years. We are paying the price for that lack of investment.” About 90% of current passenger coach rolling stock was purchased in the 1950s, with the last purchase made in 1986, he said.

State of art travel

 “The new coaches will have air-conditioning  and will have CCTVs for security plus on-board communication”, he said, adding that automatic doors would be included on the short-haul coaches that the long distance trains would have WiFi installed, plus modern toilet facilities.

“We are not looking at increasing fares in the next five years on a massive scale; there will be adjustments to meet inflation, but we are saying that the current workers can’t bear the burden for the upgrade.”

À la Française

PRASA has now invested R123bn to the upgrade its portfolio over a period of 20 years and production of the trains are set to start in 2014. It was in November that PRASA announced that it had accepted a tender from French company Alstom for the programme, Gibela now being announced as the name of the consortium formed as a result.  Canadian, Spanish and Chinese companies also bid.

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PRASA says upgrade of rail transport will involve local industry

The CEO of Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), Lucky Montana, told the public services select committee that a preferred bidder for new passenger coaches would be selected before the end of 2012 and a contract to commence building the first of 3000 new coaches over the next ten years concluded by the middle of 2013.

He told parliamentarians that the current stock of some 4,600 Metrorail coaches “would soon be unsafe to use” ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old. The same applied to its 1,200 long-distance Shosholoza Meyl train units and the replacements were to be supplied on the basis that that 65% of content was locally manufactured.

This would mean the bidder would have to have in place the manufacturing ability to meet such a commitment, Montana said, adding that “the first train would roll out of the new manufacturing plant in 2014/15.”

Montana said that whilst finished coaches could probably be imported sooner, the plan was rather to revive the local manufacturing industry thus developing skills and new jobs. A feasibility study had been undertaken by Prasa with National Treasury and the departments of public enterprises and transport, and together they had established the need for some 7,200 coaches.

He told the select committee that  in general terms South Africa’s rail system as it stood “had come to the end of its design life”. Technology used was obsolete, he said, and the whole rail structure was inefficient because of high costs of maintenance and “there are many areas that we can’t close down because we have to provide some sort of service.”

Of the international standards criteria for passenger coaches, of the twenty two issues that should be met for passenger safety and comfort, the current fleet only met one item on the list – that of heating for passengers, he said.

Signalling systems also had to be totally renewed throughout the country, he said, current ineffective systems currently inhibiting any ability to increase turn around or run more trains.

R7bn in new signalling systems was to be spent, Montana said, and he showed parliamentarians a capital expenditure budget indicating a spend of R26bn on rolling stock and infrastructure development which included signalling over the period 2012/13 to 2014/15.

In terms of future planning, he described a Johannesburg/ Durban high speed link; a further high speed rail system for the Moloto rail corridor;  a rail link for Baragwanath to Johannesburg and commuter rail links for Cape Town and King Shaka airports.

In a subsequent development outside of committees, Ben Martins, the newly appointed minister of transport, in a replying to a parliamentary question on the subject of commuter needs commented that it was “a constitutional aspiration and a stated policy that public (rail) transport should eventually devolve to the level of government closest to its delivery.”

Minister Martins noted that PRASA, as it was currently structured, “provided for limited accountability to customers” and it was imperative to “restructure service delivery in such a way as to introduce accountability and obtain better governance over the deployment of public funds.”

Talks were underway with regional governments, provincial structures and municipalities on the running of metro rail services, minister Martins stating that at this stage it was government’s intention is to devolve “only rail operational subsidies” to metropolitan municipalities, who would act as “conduits for payment” and not act as operators.

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Passenger trains only start rolling by 2015

In the light of Transnet’s enormous future expenditure, PRASA, the newly-established Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa – combining South African Rail Commuter Corporation, Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl and road transport operator Translux under a new name – recently told the parliamentary transport committee that only two-thirds of the rail passenger fleet in the form of coaches were currently in operation owing to reliability issues.

Group CEO Lucky Montana advised a 20-year procurement process that would be split into two portions, the first being a ten-year contract of coach deliveries running from 2015 and a second contract commencing 2025.

The R136-billion contract renewal programme would be for the design, building and shared maintenance of the rolling stock and final arrangements would be in terms of strict black economic empowerment criteria.

He admitted that the delivery timelines were “very tight” and he told parliamentarians that on top of this approximately 4,500 units had to be “retired” in three to five years.   Montana said that a good number of the old coaches had to be scrapped when the new fleet started arriving. Some of the older coaches are aged between 47 and 52 and with the rail passenger crisis building he told parliamentarians, “We have to move with speed”.

He said that some local sub-Sahara African rail operators had indicated that they would be interested in acquiring a number of working units from PRASA.

PRASA was to retain its present gauge and not revert to international standard gauge as implemented on Gautrain. The rolling stock programme, which also included new depots, would then also add to already existing projects, such as the current roll-out of a new signalling system and the improvement of station infrastructure.   Some of the first corridors targeted for a major overhaul by PRASA were Johannesburg to Naledi, and Khayelitsha to Cape Town. PRASA’s enterprise programme management office head, Piet Sebola, said that the new passenger trains would be 12-car units and that they would have to feature on-board wi-fi access and closed circuit television cameras to ensure commuter safety

As far as indigenisation was concerned, PRASA said the localisation target on the new rolling stock would be 65% and possibly in some cases reaching 80%. Local components could include the car body shell, door system, axles, wheels, lighting, interior cladding, bogie frame, windows and seats.

The first train is to be delivered to PRASA in 2015 and the new fleet in the first ten-year contract would be split between Gauteng, which would receive 2 400 coaches, the Western Cape 1 800, eThekwini 936 and the Eastern Cape 228.

Formal tender processes would begin in March and the successful bidder would be announced by the minister in June 2013

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