President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the unveiling of the new Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) train sets as a milestone, saying they will go a long way towards ensuring commuters are on time and that they are safe.
Reflecting on a recent incident in which he was stuck on a train for hours in Pretoria, the President said he has met with Transport Minister Blade Nzimande, the PRASA Board and management to talk about improving the customer experience on the trains with an aim of dealing with delays and safety, among other issues.
During an engagement with commuters, the train on which the President was travelling broke down, turning a 45-minute journey into a three-hour delay.
“I went onto a train in Mabopane hoping to be in Pretoria in about 30 minutes. It took us three hours. Firstly, the train arrived late and it was overcrowded and the people who were being transported were frustrated. They also told me that Mr President, this is our daily experience, this is how we roll every day.
“I promised that we are going to make sure that our trains run on time, which I have discussed with the Minister, the chairperson of the [PRASA Board] and the management and that is something that is soon going to be an experience of the past because we are going to improve rail transportation.
“We are going to make sure that our trains arrive on time and that they are not crowded, but more importantly that they are safe. That is what we are going to do an put into effect without any fail,” he said.
The launch of the new trains is part of PRASA’s 20-year modernisation programme.
The programme aims to revitalise the rail industry through local manufacturing of parts, maintenance, the establishment of training facilities, the achievement of 65% local content and training and skills development for PRASA employees and young people interested in the rail industry.
The trains were manufactured at the Gibela Factory in Pretoria.
The new trains rolled in at Cape Town Station and the President boarded for a ride. He travelled past the Salt River and Woodstock stations until Mowbray before heading back to town.
The President, who initially boarded the first coach, took time to walk through all the coaches, greeting all the passengers that had attended the official launch earlier in the day.
Earlier, the President said he was pleased by the fact that the trains were built by young people, most of them women.
“This for me is really a joyous moment. A joyous moment because this is the third interface I am having in just a few months with our rail transportation facilities. The first time was when I went to the factories that is making these trains and I was immensely impressed…to see how we are now making trains in South Africa and that we are also looking forward to making trains for the continent.”
He said the Gibela Factory is possibly the only factory in the whole continent that can make trains for passenger rail transportation.
“I am delighted at having seen these trains being made by young people – a factory of highly skilled young people – and most of them … you will be pleased to know … were women. The factory has more women than men.”