‘There are good stories to tell’: Prasa CEO on revival of ailing rail network

Author Avatar


Joined: Sep 2016

Prasa Group CEO Hishaam Emeran addressed the media about the progress made in the revival of the commuter rail network in the Western Cape.
Image: Philani Nombembe

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) group CEO Hishaam Emeran says the  agency has “good stories” to tell about progress being made to get the trains moving again after years of neglect, rampant vandalism and theft.

Emeran was speaking in Cape Town on Wednesday ahead of a train trip to showcase the progress made restoring the city’s northern rail corridor.

Prasa said eight railway lines had been restored in the Western Cape, six of which are operating with new “electric motor units”. Trains are running on the central, southern and northern corridors. They stop at 88 of the 121 stations in the province.

The agency aims to recover five more rail corridors in the province this financial year:

Nyanga to Philippi;Philippi to Chris Hani;Philippi to Kapteinsklip;Bellville to Strand; andCape Town to Muldersvlei.It also aims to relocate the occupants of shacks which have covered parts of the central line.

Emeran, appointed to the group CEO post in April, said the work done so far by thousands of agency staff deserved recognition.

“Before I took the position of group CEO at Prasa, I started here in Cape Town as a regional planner. I then went to take up the national role for planning. That role included dealing with all the cities’ planning authorities. And through that role I got to understand each of the metropolitan networks very well,” he said.

“There are serious issues that Prasa needs to resolve and respond to. [But] there has not been a true appreciation of what is transpiring, particularly in the last 18 months within Prasa. The amount of progress that we have made, the plans that we had set, and the milestones that we have achieved are somehow going unnoticed.

“We want to share that with you today but at the same time acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do, a lot of challenges to address and the team that is sitting here from the region is well aware of that.”

He said Metrorail used to run 750,000 passenger trips per day but that figure has dropped to about 50,000. “So it’s still a long way to go but the team is moving in the right direction,” he said.

“It’s important to recognise the men and women that we have got at Prasa across the country,  15,000-strong. Trains are operating from four o’clock in the morning through to nine o’clock in the evening. That requires our staff to be up at 1am, 2am in the morning to get these trains ready, get the stations ready. Same applied with the evenings in terms of getting the trains back to the depots. So there is a lot of work that is going on behind the scenes.”

The numbers are there … what we have done from a security and safety point of view. Critical to Prasa is the issue of safety and security, which underpins our recovery programme Hishaam Emeran, Prasa group CEO 

“I feel that sometimes the message is not getting out there on the progress that is happening at Prasa. These blue trains that we see running, it doesn’t happen by chance.

“We are building these trains in South Africa. We’ve got a factory in Gauteng, Nigel. You can visit that facility and bring that message back to Cape Town, we will show you around, to see how we are building these trains.”

Emeran said 70% of the train components were manufactured locally.

“We’ve got an order for 600 trains. At the moment we have 150 that we have already received. We are also dealing with the yellow and grey trains that we are still running. We’ve got a programme called general overhaul, heavy maintenance of the yellow and grey trains.”

He said a woman-led company employing more than 200 people from Touws River had been contracted to service the trains.

“In the past 12 to 13 months, there has been an investment of over R800m in Cape Town …that excludes the trains. With that investment comes job creation and opportunities. Our engagement with the communities is critical — employment of labour from the community [and] SMMEs are all programmes that we are running. And these are good stories in terms of creating job opportunities.

“The numbers are there … what we have done from a security and safety point of view. Critical to Prasa is the issue of safety and security, which underpins our recovery programme.”

Emeran said there was also progress elsewhere in the country.

“You would have picked up on Monday [that] we launched another corridor in Gauteng from Leralla to Germiston corridor. We will be launching another corridor … in KwaZulu-Natal. We are ready to bring the minister to launch the KwaMashu to Durban rail service.”

Prasa employees, he said, were working hard to recover the rail network.

“That is why we are starting to recover. After [the Covid-19] lockdown we only had four corridors that were operational nationally. By the end of last financial year, we had brought back another 14, taking us to 18 corridors,” he said.

“This year, we are working on the further 16 corridors – taking us to 34 out of a total of 40 corridors. We will be at 80%. We also have not lost focus on the 18 that we have already recovered because we are optimising the service on those corridors.”

But he said a lack of signalling equipment was hampering an optimal service, and it would cost Prasa R500m to rectify this.

“We need to recover our signalling system….we can then run safe trains every five or 10 minutes. At the moment, the operation is through manual authorisation. Signalling is a priority,” he said.

“We said by October we want [the] southern suburbs line back, and that’s going bring us the frequency on that corridor. We have appointed contractors. We have 32 blue trains in Cape Town. We need to make sure we can utilise all of them. We also have 20 of the yellow trains that we are utilising.”

The golden thread throughout Emeran’s address was the need to “focus on the progress that we are making”. He would not delve into the City of Cape Town’s calls for the passenger rail service to be devolved to it.

“There are a lot of discussions about devolution and the city, we are aware of that. It’s a policy discussion and the policy [discussions] take place at the shareholder level.

“We are implementing at the moment and we want to make sure that rail becomes the backbone in the City of Cape Town.”

He said the rail service was of great assistance to Cape Town commuters during the recent violent taxi strike. “The teams, through great difficulty, continued to run trains. We even extended our services to 11pm.”


Read Full details From Source


0 %

User Score

0 ratings
Rate This