Tag Archive | rail transport

South Africa remains without rail plan

 Feature article….

Minister Peters fails on rail policy…

dipou Peters2In a written reply to Parliament on the whereabouts of the promised Green Paper on rail policy, transport minister Dipuo Peters told her questioners that such a document which has the intention of outlining South Africa’s rail policy was to be presented to cabinet in November. GCIS statements for cabinet meetings for November and the final cabinet statement in December 2014 made no reference to any such submission having been made – alternatively, the minister might have failed to have it put on the agenda. The country therefore went into Christmas recess once again without an established government policy on both freight and passenger rail transport matters, worrying both industrialists, investors and, not the least, built environment planners.

Just talking together

A draft Green Paper was first submitted to cabinet a year ago but cabinet instructed that more consultation on the proposals was necessary, particularly interchange between the transport and public enterprises departments. The portfolio committee on transport stated that policy on freight rail upgrading and infrastructure development was unclear, plans for commuter and long-distance passenger services confused and no clear picture had emerged on Transnet’s promised policy of structural re-organisation. Subsequent to this, the department set up a national rail policy steering committee to oversee the consultation process and introduce the required changes to policy. It has also divested itself of a number of non-core assets but no clear picture has emerged in statements on the promised policy of giving direction on the privatisation of branch lines.

Since time began…

According to the minister at the time, cabinet’s concerns had also involved the adoption of a standard gauge, private sector participation and economic regulation.  Subsequently, DoT indicated that standard gauge has been selected as the most suitable gauge for the South African rail network and as a result a final revised Green Paper was tabled before the steering committee in October 2014. Nothing has emerged. In the absence of any agreed policy, particularly to meet the proposed idea of rail freight re-assuming its dominant role over road transport in the light of the deteriorating national road picture, a number of developments have indeed taken place with regard to the purchase of diesel and electric train stock, signal systems upgrades and station re-building and passenger coach rolling stock manufacture. Nevertheless, no clear picture has emerged on the road ahead with regard to the freight/road picture, branch line privatisation, commencement dates for full long distance passenger services nor satisfactory plans and targets expressed on domestic commuter rail services.

All said before

Jeremy Cronin, when deputy transport minister, told Parliament in April 2011 that by establishing a local manufacturing base for the new rolling stock, benefits would ensue by creating a substantial number of local jobs. He added that as a result of the redevelopment of rail engineering capacity, skills that have been lost over decades of underinvestment in the local rail engineering industry would be recovered. The then deputy minister also said, “We are currently (2011) in the Green Paper phase with the primary objective of preparing the way for effective stake holder engagement. We are poised to reverse the decline in our critical rail sector that began in the mid-1970s and gathered pace in the late 1980’s.” In April 2015 therefore the country will be the fourth year of waiting for South Africa to outline its rail policy, “a system critically in decline” according to minister Cronin.

Recent update from Maties

A few months ago, a most important paper on rail transport, now in the in the hands of DoT, was published and out into the public domain by Dr Jan Havenga, director: centre for supply chain management, department of logistics, Stellenbosch University, who led a team of transport logistics experts to complete this erudite and informed report. The report is entitled “South Africa’s freight rail reform: a demand-driven perspective” and opens with a definition of government’s responsibilities in rail transport matters. “The role of the government is, primarily, to facilitate the development of a long-term logistics strategy that optimally equilibrates demand and supply through ‘anticipation’ of the market character.” “The definition of a national network of road and rail infrastructure and their intermodal connections will flow from this, presupposing neutrality across modes by taking full account of all relevant social, environmental, economic and land-use factors.” “This ensures that the mix of transport modes reflects their intrinsic efficiency, rather than government policies and regulations that favour one mode over another. The strategy is subsequently enabled by a clearly defined freight policy, a single funding regime for the national network and, lastly, the establishment of appropriate regulatory framework.”

Volume of freight critical

The report notes that “the American Trucking Association (2013) forecasts that intermodal rail will continue to be the fastest-growing freight mode in the next decade. Only the very busiest railway networks, which can exploit the density potential of volume growth, are likely to generate sufficiently high financial returns to attract substantial risk capital in long-term railway infrastructure.” “The Association of American Railroads as well in 2013 also highlights the impact of density on efficiency, revenue and, ultimately, the ability to reinvest.”

Lacking in market intelligence

Dr Havenga says, “The failure of South Africa’s freight railway to capture this market is attributable to a lack of policy direction regarding the role of the two modes (road and rail) in the surface freight transport industry and according to the Development Bank of Southern Africa, caused by the absence of sufficient market intelligence to inform policy.” He goes on to confirm that “one of the key requirements for an efficient national freight transport system is better national coordination based on market-driven approaches.”

Pressing need

“To avoid the ad hoc policy responses of the previous century, which led to sub-optimisation, increasing complexity and decreasing end-user quality, the pressing reform issue for South Africa, therefore, is agreement on the design of an optimal freight logistics network based on a market-driven long-term strategy that holistically addresses the country’s surface freight transport requirements.” Dr. Havenga’s final comment in the report, only a few weeks old, states that South Africa’s freight task is expected to treble over the next 30 years, with further concentration on the long-distance corridors. He points out that the country desperately needs a profit-driven market related core rail network to serve industry and manufacturing, as well as a developmental-driven branch line network to serve rural development. Other articles in this category or as background http://parlyreportsa.co.za/transport/minister-comments-taxis-e-tolls-road-rail/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/prasa-gets-its-rail-commuter-plan-started/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/transnet-says-freight-rail-operations-coming-right/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/rail-is-departments-main-focus-in-year-ahead/

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Transport ministry studies taxi, e-tolls and rail

Minister briefs on transport…..

dipou petersTransport minister, Dipuo Peters, told parliamentarians during the annual budget vote debate during a transport portfolio committee meeting that she had to re-look at the failing taxi recapitalisation programme; encourage Gauteng road users to pay e-tolls by announcing incentives; tackle urgently the upgrading of roads; and consider methods to restore freight rail transport as a the primary carrier for the Durban/Gauteng corridor.

The minister said that she recognised that the taxi industry played a critical role in the South African economy by providing 300,000 jobs and contributing an estimated,R40bn to the economy, she said.

Upgrade of taxi industry

The need to modernise the taxi industry still remained as an urgent issue, she continued, and also there was a need to further deploytaxi industry  taxi drivers to other industries, including the bus rapid transit system, possibly aviation and to ports and shipping.

She attributed the slow pace of the recapitalisation programme to the fact that heavily indebted taxi operators chose to remain with old taxis rather enter the process of recapitalisation.   Also, the scrapping allowance had been overtaken by rising prices of new taxis. The entire system needed a priority overhaul, she said, since the safety of the South African passengers was at risk.

Later it became evident during debate that the taxi recapitalisation programme had for all intents and purposes stalled, since only 2,752 vehicles had been scrapped in some eighteen months.

Easing off the pressure

On the subject of e-tolls, Minister Peters said that in order to “make things easier” for the public, DoT was providing an extension of the payment period from seven days to fifty one days; a 48% e-tag-holder discount; 60% discount on the alternative tariff if a non registered user paid within the same 51 days; time-of-day discounts applicable in certain cases; frequent user discounts and a cap on class A2/light vehicles

The minister was asked if Sanral intended to continue its “prosecution and possibly criminalisation of some one-million people who have not paid their e-toll bills”. She replied that she hoped the new arrangements would assist in reducing the financial burden for motorists. She urged Gauteng users of tolled roads to “accept their responsibilities in the interests of better roads for South Africa if SANRAL were to perform their duties and meet their targets.”

She asked MPs to take the lead and say publicly that they were.

Breakdown

The total DoT budget was R48.7bn. for 2014/15, rising to R53.9bn. in 2015/16. This amount included allocations to provinces, municipalities, state owned companies and agencies. Road transport received 43.7%, rail transport had 34.9% and public transport 21%, whilst civil aviation and maritime each received 0.4%. DoT was responsible for transfer of payments and conditional grants to provinces and municipalities.

On the issue of road conditions nationally, DOT heads stated that only 10% of roads were in “poor” condition and the department indicated that it would provide R21.9bn in critical support to SANRAL who were the roads delivery agent for DoT.

Commuter rail focus

metrorailOn rail issues and rail transport, Mawethu Vilana, acting DG for DoT, said passenger rail accounted for a large slice of the commuter transport used by the national work force, R15bn being allocated to the railways accordingly.    He said DoT was trying to reduce the cost and to improve the services of Metrorail, as well as accelerate implementation of integrating rail services with other transport services.   A White Paper would be issued on rail integration issues.

Integration of systems

This was enlarged upon by Mathabatha Mokonyama, DG of public transport, who said the focus was on accelerating integrated transport systems “so as to improve its overall productivity” and DoT would to allocate R81m to the integration process, expected to increase to R84m in 2015/16 and again to R89m in 2016/17.

Mokonyama reconfirmed that whilst rail transport played a major role, DoT had to focus on reducing the cost of public transportcity deep generally and it would also monitor the progress of the Passenger Rail Agency in its objective to restore to the country national rail passenger systems.

He indicated that rail freight transport had to play a larger role in order to compete with road, particularly the Durban/Gauteng corridor and to service industry in Mpumalanga.

Draft White Paper on way

Mokonyama again pointed to the new draft updated White Paper on Transport which was on its way as a framework for public discussion. DoT would also update the Moving South Africa plan and the seven-year old rural transport strategy. This new planning called for further updated legislation.

Minister Peters, in conclusion, conceded under questioning that DoT urgently needed to update scholar transport policies and re-introduce urgency to programmes to reduce road fatalities.

In an odd ending to the debate, when discussing the budget vote on maritime issues, it was said by the DoT maritime services DG that there was a need to establish a maritime shipping sector. The chair promptly asked, “What has happened to the country’s ships?”

The deputy minister of transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, replied “All our ships were sold on the eve of democracy to make sure that the current government did not participate in the international shipping industry”.

This position was to be reversed, she concluded.

Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//finance-economic/prasa-says-upgrade-of-rail-transport-will-involve-local-industry/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//finance-economic/bumpy-road-for-e-tolling-bill-continues/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/transnet-says-freight-rail-operations-coming-right/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/transport-subsidies-to-business-are-wrong-says-parliament/

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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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Rail is department’s main focus in year ahead

George Mahlalela, director general, department of transport (DOT), told the portfolio committee on transport recently during the department’s strategic plan for 2012/13 that plans included a Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) upgrade to expand what was described as “the seven priority commuter rail corridors.”

He said DOT would be establishing a Rail Economic Regulator in terms of a draft Rail Act now being drawn up once the stakeholders in South Africa’s new rail structures could be more clearly established.

A Green Paper formulating the future of rail transport was shortly to be made public.

This would involve the subject of where public participation could be injected into the new structures, Mahlalela said.    PRASA had recently announced a multi-million rand re-capitalisation programme to invest in new coach rolling stock, he noted.

On road transport, the DG noted that the finalised Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) would be “rolled out” and much in the way of traffic legislation would be made subject to review.

He acknowledged that much attention was needed on road maintenance generally throughout South Africa and attempts were being made to catch-up on the back-log.  He said “Ironing out the difficulties from the combining of road maintenance where disaster relief was directed” had been a problem.

On air freight services a new civil aviation strategy was be drawn up with amendments to legislation planned and a Green Paper on maritime transport was to appear by May 2012.

There were also plans to finalise the National Land Transport Amendment Act in 2012. He promised also that the Ports Act of 2005 would be looked at very shortly.

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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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