Meeting SummaryThe Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) briefed the Committee on their main programmes and gave an indication of where each was heading in the task of providing South Africans with reliable and safe public transport systems. PRASA was playing a critical role in getting South Africans to work, and was playing an integral role in the South African economy as a result. Some of the key achievements were outlined, and it was noted that many of the challenges emanated from a lack of adequate funding mechanisms to allow proper planning and implementation of some of the critical programmes that would improve the transport system in the country. He made no secret that huge investments need to be done in order for PRASA to achieve its goal of providing South Africans with high quality public transport solution. There were already interventions under way, including the refurbishment of train stations, replacing and repairing of fleets, and improving safety standards. Members were concerned that it seemed a great deal of money needed to be invested in order to make PRASA work better. However, they expressed further concerns, particularly in relation to the high costs of maintaining some lines and stations, that PRASA was investing in property that did not in fact belong to it, but to other concerns such as Transnet. The funding model was also discussed at length, especially once PRASA revealed that it was in the process of applying for a clearance to enable its board of directors to approve a borrowing funding model without having to go through the office of the National Treasury. Members also raised the need for improvement of transport systems in more remote areas, including rural areas, saying that the current bias was on large cities. Some of the current projects were outlined.
The Railway Safety Regulator highlighted some of the challenges that were facing this entity in its goal to improve upon safety across all rail networks. Again, the issue of budget strains, and the condition of outdated equipment, was fingered as the major cause of the compromised safety state. Other factors included human error, vandalism of State property and theft of cables. The RSR did say it was embarking on a new drive to overhaul the entire system and, where necessary, replacing the outdated equipment with new and sophisticated systems. The Members expressed concern at the high levels of accidents caused by settlements being built close to railway lines.
The Department of Transport presentations focused on the Taxi Recapitalisation programme and the scrapping of taxis. The taxi recapitalisation was going well but much more needed to be done in order to fast track the process to meet the target of completion by 2013. Funding from the government was highlighted as a major stumbling block. The R7.7 billion approved by Cabinet was not being rolled out as promised, and this was causing delays. A total of 135 894 taxis were due to be scrapped. The scrapping allowance to owners was to be linked to the Consumer Price Index. Members of the committee were concerned that one of the stakeholders in the consortium that was awarded a tender to be the Scrapping Administration Agency was 30% owned by a unionised taxi association, and expressed concerns about the conflict of interest. The Department asked the Committee to assist in putting pressure on Cabinet to allocate funding. However, Members were not convinced that funding from the government was at issue, and questioned the Department on its reported under spending, saying that they believed this was the reason for the drop in funding.
The final presentation by the Department was on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and its progress to date. The Department described the launch of the Rea Vaya in
Passenger Rail Agency of
Mr Lucky Montana, Group Chief Executive Officer, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), said the entity was created out of a 2004 Cabinet decision to consolidate passenger entities, and the process was completed in the 2008/09 financial year. The consolidation entailed the amalgamation of Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl, Autopax (City to City and Translux) and Intersite Property Management. He said the strategic roadmap of PRASA could be summarised as firstly to establish and position itself during the first two years of its establishment, then to consolidate and form the backbone of public transport, before embarking on an integration and expansion drive from 2015 onwards. Mr
There was a drive to develop various stations across the country into property portfolio hubs, something that would generate extra revenue for the entity. Safety issues were mentioned as one of the key priorities, with platform correction projects already under way. With regard to the rolling stock upgrades and technology enhancement, Mr
Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) Briefing
Mr Mosenngwa Mofi, Chief Executive Officer, Railway Safety Regulator, said the mandate of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) was to oversee and promote safe railway operations through appropriate support, monitoring and enforcement, guided by an enabling regulatory framework. He said RSR also had to comply with other pieces of legislation. When the RSR took over, there was a poor safety record in the country. The contributing factors included human factors, the poor state of infrastructure and rolling stock and poor practices and operating procedures.
Other areas that were highlighted as a cause for of concern, with regard to safety issues, were the state of ageing signaling and communications equipment, and scarcity of spares, and non-adherence to operating procedures, particularly when manual procedures were put in place and not followed. The ongoing vandalism and theft, particularly of copper cables and equipment containing copper, such as signaling transformers on trains, the critical shortage of skilled technical staff for maintenance, and new rail works had all played a role in compromising safety standards on the railway lines. Mr Mofi said the RSR’s research revealed that over 95% of level crossing accidents were caused by negligence on the part of road users.
The mushrooming of informal settlement was also identified as a contributing factor that led to fatalities, caused by illegal crossings, vandalism and theft of property. Over 40% of the rolling stock railway fleet was over 37 years old, and one third of those trucks were constantly out of service. The signaling system, which was at the end of its economic life, was also identified as a worrying factor. Mr Mofi said that more was being done on the ground to bring safety measures into line. This could be seen in the way the RSR was responding with refurbishing measures, such as putting in place warning signs, investing heavily in improving infrastructure, increasing the visibility of security personnel, and conducting occurrence investigations
Mr S Farrow (DA) asked how PRASA was getting its funding from the National Treasury. He also wanted to know if the money it was getting from the government was enough to carry the expansion programmes. He asked Mr
Ms Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, Chief Financial Officer, PRASA, answered the question on the listing process. She said the PRASA board had approved the submission to the Department of Transport (DOT), and PRASA was waiting for an answer, which hopefully would give PRASA a Schedule 2 listing, which would make it able to draw up its own independent borrowing plan without having to go through the sometimes tedious route via the National Treasury. She said her task was to ensure that the balance restructuring was in good standing, in order that lenders were willing to consider extending loans to the entity.
Mr Farrow noted that there was a huge challenge with the network system. He said it was deeply worrying to hear that PRASA was investing such a large amount of money on repairing and maintaining the rail network, when most of that network belonged to another entity such as Transnet.
Ms E Hangana (ANC) also wanted to know why there was a lack of harmonious working relationships between different government departments. She cited an incident wherein the Department of Transport sued the Department of Human Settlements over a matter that the two departments could not resolve, which she regarded as a highly embarrassing situation.
Ms P Khunou (ANC) asked whether there was any integrated transport system that would be unveiled to supplement the FIFA 2010 event. She also asked whether PRASA was doing enough to attract new commuters through providing an even much better service in terms of cleanliness, security, efficiency and costs.
Ms Khunou said it was worrying that the presentation made no mention of plans to revive railway lines in rural areas. She further asked whether, in view of the high costs of repairing and maintaining old trains, it was not viable simply to buy new coaches.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) also said it was worrying that some remote areas were being left out of PRASA’s development strategy. She said this approach was contrary to the ANC manifesto, which identified the issue of rural development as one of the five key priorities to be improved upon.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) asked whether PRASA was going to have a railway line connecting commuters to the airport, particularly in the
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila said the premier class coaches were not easy to book, due to capacity issues. She said she was aware that the numbers of coaches was increased, but it was still necessary to book very far in advance.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked what plans PRASA had to address skills shortage. She asked specifically whether there were plans to offer bursaries and any form of financial assistance to students, who would in turn offer to work for PRASA when they finished studying.
Mr Sfiso Buthezeli, Board Chairperson, PRASA, noted that PRASA did have programmes in place to recruit the best students, and this included interacting with universities to provide funding of all kind to students who had a passion to make a contribution in making traveling by train a glamorous phenomenon. He noted that energy levels were very high and everyone was working to ensure that PRASA fulfilled its mandate to the benefit of all South Africans.
Ms Hangana asked whether people were still allowed to cook and sell food in trains. She said those kind of activities were crucial as they provided a source of income and livelihood to many families.
Mr Buthelezi answered that cooking was no longer done in all trains, only on the Shosholoza one.
The Chairperson reiterated that the integrated government relations framework, together with the cooperative government policy would guide the efforts to resolve some of the tensions that were created by the ownership of railway lines between Transnet and PRASA.
The Chairperson commented that the presentations had not satisfactorily dealt with the issue of affirmative action. She added that she hoped that what PRASA was doing would not have the effects of wiping out the taxi industry from the transport sector.
Mr De Freitas said the presentation from the Railway Safety Regulator was not as convincing as the one from PRASA, and commented that there was not much said about the implementation timeframes for the new safety technology.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila said she noted the number of fatalities caused by train accidents. She questioned what the RSR was doing to raise public awareness in order to minimise those fatalities. She also asked whether any form of compensation would be offered to individuals who were injured or killed.
The Chairperson commented that there was a lot of under spending on the money allocated to departments for skills training. She said it was now the time to re-look at how they were proceeding with matters, and time to start prioritising properly.
Taxi Recapitalisation and Scrapping Administration: Department of Transport (DOT) briefing
Ms Kamantha Manila, Director: Taxi Recapitalisation Project Office, Department of Transport, said that in 2005/06, Cabinet had approved R7.7billion for the entire taxi recapitalisation project. This amount was to be split into R5 billion for scrapping and R2.2 billion for regulation of the programme. The initial arrangement for the programme was that the R7.7 billion would be further split into R1.1billion allocated over each year of a seven-year period. However, the prompt allocation of the first R1.1 billion did not take place as promised. During the 2006/07 financial year, the Department was allocated R352 million, increasing to R578 million in the 2007/08 financial year and R459 million for the 2008/09 financial year.
The total number of vehicles that were approved for scrapping reached a total of 135 894. Up to now, a total of 21 640 had been scrapped, leaving 114 254 vehicles still to be scrapped over the remaining five years of the project. The new annual scrapping target set over the remaining 5 years of the project stood at 22 850 vehicles per year. A few amendments were made in order to accommodate all the stakeholders. The 135 894 vehicles captured was a figure that was adjusted from the earlier figure of 100 000. The Cabinet also approved a consumer price index (CPI)-linked increase of the payout scrapping allowance, originally calculated at R50 000. There was also an increase in the budget allocation to R9.5 billion for the total of seven years.
There were a number of challenges identified. The first was the issue of funding and allocation. The pace and amount of funding that had been allocated so far fell too far short of what was reasonably expected, to scrap over 135 000 vehicles. Access to the law enforcement allowance had also been a major challenge. There was also the problem of vehicle owners not having access to loans needed to supplement the scrapping allowance that the government paid out. The National Credit Act (NCA) and the current financial recession had been identified as the two major impediments, with some operators saying that banks were turning them away, because they did not meet the criteria set by the NCA.
One of the regulations agreed on was the creation of the Scrapping Administration Agency (SAA), which would be established through a bidding process. This SAA would have offices in all nine provinces of
Since the implementation of the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme in October 2006, a total of R1.137 billion had been paid out to scrapping. R630.7 million was allocated for the current financial year, of which a CPI index linked R54 300 would be paid out to taxi owners for their scrapping. An estimated 11 616 vehicles were expected to be scrapped in the remainder of the current financial year, putting the total figure of vehicles to be scrapped in the entire current financial year to 34 356.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System Presentation
Ms Kibi Manana, Chief Director: Public Transport Strategy and Monitoring, Department of Transport, gave a detailed presentation on the Phase 1 progress update on the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) project that was being implemented in major South African cities. She told the Committee that a National Joint Working Group was established, which, in partnership with various other stakeholders, was engaging with the DOT to see to it that the processes ran as smoothly as possible. At the present, the stakeholders of the BRT were at the last stages of finalising the Memorandum of Agreement, which would capture all the details of how this project would be rolled-out.
In outlining the status of planning and implementation in major cities, Ms Manana said that currently the focus of the BRT projects was in
The vision and long-term strategy of the BRT was to have 85% of all residents within 1 kilometre of a rapid Public Transport (PT)network by 2010. Other objectives of the BRT were to extend operation hours to make it a 24 hour service, with frequencies of 5 to10 minutes intervals during peak times and 10 to 30 minutes during off-peak times. The need to have a safer, reliable transport system that accommodated citizens with special needs, such as wheelchair access, would always be the driving force behind the BRT system.
Other accessory services present at the BRT stations included three security guards, two cleaners, one cashier, one station ambassador and two volunteers, all of whom were recruited from the affected operators and surrounding communities. The ticket fare structure ranged from R3 to R8, depending on the route and distance. Ticket sale points were spread across the entire city, and buses had ticket validating machines, with independent inspectorate personnel ensuring that all passengers were in possession of valid tickets when on board.
Ms Manana said the overall impression from the BRT Rea Vaya launch in
Some interesting facts emerged on the Rea Vaya during the presentation. Ms Manana said over 16 000 passengers were transported by the buses per day, generating revenue of about R70 000 per day. Each bus made up to 151 trips per day, covering about 5 100 kilometers per day. There were nine breakdowns in total, and five of them were due to tyre failure. Third party accidents recorded thus far were four, all being minor and numerous scratches.
In other cities, the progress of Phase 1 was not as impressive as was the case in
The city of
Progress in other cities was reported to be at operational plan phases. Those cities included
Ms N Khunou (ANC) thanked both presenters for a well balanced presentation. She however raised concern about the issue of costs to be incurred by the public in using the BRT buses. She said that she understood BRT to be a heavily government-subsidised project, but nonetheless, in the presentation, the figures given as the costs of boarding the buses did not show in any way that this was a subsidised transport system.
Ms Manana said the fares charged were aligned to what was being charged by other operators in the city. Even though she agreed that the service was still heavily subsidised, she did concede that there were signs that prices would go up to match the level of quality of service that would be afforded.
Ms Khunou said she was not convinced that proper consultations were done with all relevant parties, especially consultations with some of the taxi operators.
Mr Farrow also said he was not convinced that the commuter organisations were consulted as part of the key stakeholders in the process. He said he was aware of one big lobby group in
Ms Manana said the Department had done everything in its power to engage every stakeholder in this process. She said that at times blame lay with the leaders of organisations to which some of the taxi operators belonged. Sometimes, information was not filtering through to the people on the ground due to a communication breakdown on the part of taxi operators, and the Department could not be blamed for not engaging those kinds of stakeholders.
The Committee Chairperson took issue with Ms Manana’s response regarding the issue of prices and subsidies. As far as she was concerned, BRT was supposed to have been a project that would not only improve the quality of transport system in
Ms Manana said the government subsidies came in two forms, operational subsidies and capital subsidy. She said the operational subsidy would be meant to benefit the bus operators who would eventually own the project when it was finally handed over to them, whereas the capital subsidy programme benefited the public directly.
Ms Khunou was concerned that the buses that would be used were not manufactured in
Ms Manana answered that the buses were imported from other countries, particularly from
Ms Khunou said, in regard to the TRP, that some of the terminology and figures were very confusing. She asked whether the DOT had drawn up a proper plan of how it was going to use the money allocated for this project. In the absence of such a plan, it would be extremely difficult to implement the programme properly. She asked Ms Manila to explain what she meant by “affected stakeholders” in her presentation.
Ms Manila said the DOT, as the main driver of the project, was involved at every level of planning of the implementation of the BRT, with various other stakeholders. She said she was convinced that if the Department had allocated the money that it had promised originally, namely the R1.1 billion over seven years, the process would have proceeded quite far. She reiterated that the challenges confronted with regard to budgeting had nothing to do with a lack of a properly structured plan. DOT had drawn up and submitted a plan to Cabinet, which led to a total R7.7 billion being approved.
She said that all the bus or taxi operators who operated on a route where BRT would reach, were classified as affected parties, and were thus included in the terms she had used in the presentation.
Mr De Freitas questioned and said he was worried about the fact that SANTACO had a 30% ownership stake in the consortium that won the bid to operate as the TSA, which he believed could cause major conflicts of interest.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked how many civil society organisations took part in this process and what their contribution had been. She further raised concern that in
Ms Manila noted that the Department tried to engage all relevant sectors of society. She said that currently the civil society stakeholders included South African Taxi and Allied Workers Union, South African National Commuter Organisation, Gauteng Commuter Organisation, South African Disability Alliance and Congress of South African Trade Unions.
Mr Farrow (DA) said he was privileged to have witnessed the launch of the Rea Vaya project in
Ms Manana said she noted Mr Farrow’s comment about the need for coordination and could not agree more with him on the importance of such coordination. She promised Mr Farrow that she would take up his concerns with relevant officials when they did a review of the process.
Mr De Freitas asked what formula was being used to allocate guards to particular stations. He said some stations had more security personnel than other. Closely attached to that, he asked for more clarity on the role of ambassadors and volunteers that would be used at some of the BRT stations.
Ms Manana said she did not know what the formula was behind the allocation and distribution of security personnel. She suggested that perhaps that question could be better answered by officials from the City, when they come to brief the committee.
She said ambassadors would be people who would be posted to various stations for the purposes of assisting commuters with information such as where to buy tickets, where to find the buses and other logistical information in general. She said volunteers would support ambassadors.
Mr De Freitas said he was worried about the feasibility of rolling out the BRT project in other cities. When looking at the effort and resources put behind the preliminary preparations for the Rea Vaya in
Ms Manana said it was true that other cities were lagging behind in terms of putting infrastructure to support BRT for 2010. She said there would be some temporary interventions that would be carried out to ensure that the system worked during 2010. Some of those interventions would include putting in place event-specific infrastructure to service the FIFA World Cup during 2010.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila said she had overheard that the SAA, in addition to offices in the provinces, had mobile units that were in operation to facilitate a speedy and efficient process of spearheading the TRP. She was concerned whether these mobile units really existed on the ground. She had never seen one in her constituency in
Ms Manila said as far as she was aware there were mobile units present in all the provinces. Through these, an operator could file the papers and all necessary documentation without any major inconvenience, except perhaps at the stage when the vehicle had to be taken in to be scrapped at the final stages of the process. She said there were two types of mobile units, one of which would be present in each of the nine provinces, moving around distributing forms and collecting them for processing. The other mobile unit would be moving from province to province, depending on where it was needed the most, for the physical scrapping. She said there were only two of these mobile units for the entire country.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila said she was aware of the reports that the DOT had under spent its budget allocation for the 2006/07 financial year. She asked what the reasons were for that under spending. In her view, a department that under spent its budget could not turn around and claim that it could not implement most of its programmes through lack of funding.
Mr Furrow agreed, saying that it was fairly obvious that the main reason why the National Treasury had cut the budget was due to under spending.
Mr Farrow expressed his concern that the taxi recapitalisation process was not done quickly enough. If this trend continued, it would result in a cycle where, but the time the last old vehicle was scrapped, the new replacements would themselves be at the stage of needing to be scrapped, which would set up a vicious cycle that the Department could not hope to address.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila further said that the presentation had mentioned that some of the operating licencing boards lacked capacity. Based on what she had seen in these offices, she was not sure that there was lack of capacity and it was more likely that the problem was lack of supporting mechanisms.
Adoption of previous Minutes
Because there was no properly constituted quorum, the Committee was unable to adopt the minutes of the previous meeting. The Committee Chairperson asked the Whips to act strongly on members who were not attending the full Committee meetings.
The meeting was adjourned
- Passenger Rail Agency & Railway Safety Regulator programmes & Taxi Recapitalisation & Bus Rapid Transit system
- Transport: Briefing by Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa & Railway Safety Regulator on their organisation [Part 1]
- Transport: Briefing by Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa & Railway Safety Regulator on their organisation [Part 1]
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