Railways: Provincial Government’s Threat Sparks Row in South Africa

As railway system in South Africa faces further turmoil,the Central government is unhappy with the plan by the opposition controlled Cape Government to take over raii functions from the center.

The South African constitution actually placed railway responsibility under the control of the Central government.

Transport minister Blade Nzimande recently said the City of Cape Town’s intention to take over the passenger rail service is dishonest and opportunistic,Times of South Africa had reported.

The City of Cape Town’s intention to take over the passenger rail service will not give rail commuters improved, accessible, reliable and cost-effective public transport.

Transport minister Blade Nzimande made this statement on Tuesday afternoon following an announcement by the City of Cape Town that it wanted to appoint a multi-disciplinary team of rail professionals to assist the transport directorate with high-level business plans for taking over passenger rail in the city.

In its announcement, the city said taking over the rail function from the national government would not happen overnight, but would be done in phases and over time. 

But Nzimande was critical of the plan.

“The intention by the City of Cape Town is dishonest, opportunistic and absolute political manoeuvring that seeks to undermine the enormous efforts by the ANC government to change the rail landscape of South Africa, which has been characterised by decades of disinvestment by the apartheid regime,” Nzimande said.

He said that in terms of the South African Transport Service Act, the transport department was the only legitimate transport authority to ensure that rail commuter services were provided within the republic in the public interest.

“For the City of Cape Town to reinvent the wheel and interfere with the mandate of another sphere of government will not be able to assist rail commuters to have an improved, accessible, reliable and cost-effective public transport,” Nzimande said.

He said that in dealing with the legacy of disinvestment in rail, the ANC government had invested billions in resuscitating commuter rail transportation.

“Our immediate and urgent task is to stabilise and provide a predictable Metrorail service within current capacity, measured by increased ridership, customer satisfaction and efficiency,” Nzimande said.

He claimed that the ANC government had progressively restored operational stability in Western Cape Metrorail.

Nzimande said with the Cape Town Corridor requiring about 110 full train sets in the 2019/2020 financial year, government had commenced operating 88 fully configured trains.

He said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA was also undertaking extensive infrastructure work focusing on, among others, fixing of perways and signalling.

“As Minister of Transport, I have appointed stakeholder relations managers from my office based here in Cape Town, Gauteng, eThekwini and East London (where Metrorail has operations) to act as a direct link between my office and various stakeholders, including commuter and community organisations.”

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