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Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the showcasing of new Prasa trains, Cape Town Station

Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Nzimande,
Premier of the Western Cape, Ms Hellen Zille,
MEC of Transport in the Western Cape, Mr Donald Grant,
Prasa Chairperson, Ms Khanyisile Kweyama,
Prasa Group CEO, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, 
Representatives of rail commuter organisations,
Representatives of labour, business and communities,
Distinguished Guests,
Members of the media, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a great milestone in our effort to improve the safety, reliability and comfort of commuter rail transport in South Africa.

This is an important development, in particular, for the men, women and children of Cape Town, many of whom depend on the rail network to get to and from work every day, to get to schools and universities, to get to hospitals and clinics, and to visit friends and family.

South Africa has a comprehensive mass transit rail system.

Over the years, however, train transportation has fallen into a state of disrepair and it has been the commuters who have suffered most.

For too long, commuters have been frustrated by delays caused by signal failures and cable theft, ageing trains and acts of vandalism and criminality.

For too long, commuting by train has been a nightmare for our people. 

Today we are embarking on a bold new programme to transform the face of rail travel, not just here in the Western Cape, but across the country.

I want to congratulate Prasa, the Department of Transport and the Western Cape government for the great effort to get us to this point. 

Collaborative and cooperative governance is essential if we are to achieve our common goal to improve the daily lives of all South Africans.

Today marks the beginning of the rollout of Prasa’s Fleet Renewal Programme, that in turn forms part of Prasa’s R172 billion modernisation programme. 

Under this ambitious venture we aim to manufacture 6,000 new trains over a 20 year period. 

It is the largest urban rail infrastructure modernisation programme we have undertaken in our country.

It will drastically transform the sector, contribute to the growth of our economy and improve the quality of life of commuters.

Our people will have world-class, modern, safe and comfortable trains.

We are aiming through this modernisation programme to ensure that the days of being late for work and school because of unreliable train services are over. 

Two weeks ago, I experienced first hand what commuters have to go through on a daily basis when a train I boarded from Mabopane to the Tshwane CBD was delayed for three hours. 

The frustration of my fellow commuters was justified.

They told me this was nothing out of the ordinary for them. 

What was all the more distressing was that one of the reasons for the delay was that a train driver at another station had been attacked.

Attacks on train drivers, coupled with vandalism of trains, is completely unacceptable. 

Here in the Western Cape we have seen incidents of these kind on the rise, as criminal elements attempt to cloak their actions in the language of legitimate grievance.

These are acts of sabotage that have the most damaging effect on the poor and working class.

The safety of commuters and drivers is of paramount importance.

The new trains will be much safer, with on-board CCTV cameras, fire suppression mechanisms and critical emergency communication systems for passengers.

The trial trains we are showcasing here today will be rolled out in other parts of the country in line with the modernisation programme.

Our new trains are proudly made in South Africa, at the newly built manufacturing plant in Nigel in Gauteng. 

The very first locally manufactured train was rolled out onto the factory floor in December 2018 – the same year the plant first opened its doors.

I want to congratulate the 875 young men and women whose skills and workmanship enabled us to reach this milestone.

They are an example and an inspiration to the nation.

As we showcase this new train, we must acknowledge that trains alone will not solve the many problems that confront Prasa, from governance to financial management, from ageing infrastructure to staff morale.

It is critical that Prasa proceeds with urgency – and with the necessary support from government and other stakeholders – to implement its turnaround plans.

As the Presidency, we are working closely with the Minister of Transport to ensure that Prasa’s challenges are overcome, particularly around critical rail operational functions.

In addition to the Rolling Stock Acquisition Programme, the modernisation programme will include other infrastructure upgrades, such as station improvements, the improvement of rail lines, rail signalling system upgrades, platform height rectifications, and corridor and depot modernisation. 

This will take place over a period of 20 years, yielding immense economic, social and employment benefits.

The signalling replacement is currently underway, which includes the replacement of the old signalling system and construction of a new Train Control Centre for the Western Cape. 

Prasa is also exploring the expansion of the rail network for the development of the Blue Downs Rail Link at an estimated cost of R2 billion.

These projects are aligned with the aspirations of the National Development Plan, which include localisation in manufacturing, job creation, promoting skills development, reducing the cost of living and stimulation of the economy.

We are only too aware that if we are to get our economy growing and transform our country, our citizens must have a real and tangible stake in development.

We therefore applaud those organisations that have taken up the plight of rail commuters and have campaigned consistently for the improvement of these services.

We are here today in acknowledgement that our people deserve better services than they have had.

The new trial trains that we are seeing here signify that we are on a bold and ambitious new journey, whose ultimate destination is a modern, integrated and safe national public transport system.

They demonstrate the great heights that can be attained when we take decisive action to manufacture and produce our own national assets, creating employment and opportunities for our people.

They show a country hard at work.

With this new modernised rail transport system, we will be strengthening these lifelines for our citizens, enabling them to commute in comfort and dignity.

We can only get to our destination if we work together.

I thank you.