PRASA on Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal implementation, with Rail Safety Regulator

This premium content has been made freely available


15 March 2016
Chairperson: Mr G Radebe (ANC) (Acting)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee was updated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) on the implementation of the new Rolling Stock Programme. The infrastructural condition had deteriorated, the mainline rail services lacked funding, and short-term interventions included fencing and improving the stations and buying skills in the market. R172 billion had been invested to modernise passenger railways and 30 cars (5 trains) had been handed over. Various South Africa suppliers were contracted for 38 components of the trains being manufactured in Brazil.182 people had been employed, 337 people trained and 180 bursaries awarded mainly in the engineering disciplines. The capital cost of the new factory was R1 bn. 27 stations would be completed between 2016/17 and 2022/23. The Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC) was 100% complete. Installation of signalling equipment in KZN was 48.6%. Thales Maziya Consortium was appointed for construction and installation of signalling equipment in the Western Cape with a progress of 40.4%. 18 commercial trains would be delivered between March 2016 and January 2017.

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) in its briefing said that it was working well with PRASA and the information provided by the latter was true. There was a decrease of 7% in operational occurrences, 4% and 40% increase in fatalities and injuries respectively from the previous period. The top five high risk occurrences included collisions during movement of rolling stock, people struck by trains during movement of rolling stock, platform- train interchange and level crossing occurrences. There was 6% increase in the top five focus areas, 2% decrease in fatalities and 81% increase in injuries from previous period to current reporting period. Areas of concern were human factor challenges, technology/infrastructure challenges, vandalism and theft. The signalling infrastructure in Gauteng was 51% acceptable. It was recommended that all safety related abnormalities be rectified and a suitable maintenance strategy be implemented. The review considerations were reliability, availability, and a maintenance and safety approach. The overall height of the locomotive was 4.140mm and all labelling, signs, information on display and related to operation would be in the English language. The Afro 4000 locomotive had been approved for commercial services subject to maintenance, air quality tests, human factors assessment and installation of a radio telecommunication system.

Members asked why there was a change in the date of the arrival of locomotives, the number expected, were the specification requirements met, was Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) involved to ensure appropriate purchases, why 62 of the 124 locomotives purchased in 2009 were in bad condition, why trains were overcrowded, why maintenance was not a long term plan, when would the Afro 4000 locomotives report be ready as the Committee did not want surprises from the media, when short-term interventions would be completed. They questioned why PRASA used cell phones and not radio, provided more urban services than rural and the amount spent on capex and opex. They questioned why engineers in the country were bypassed to make purchases outside South Africa, stations in Limpopo and Northern Cape were neglected in the upgrades, how train drivers were recruited and trained, the number of small businesses empowered and why there were no toilets, lights and good level crossing signage in some stations. They said the deteriorating mainline services would be in conflict with the National Development Plan (NDP) at the current rate and asked when the new factory would be completed.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
Mr G Radebe (ANC), the Acting Chairperson, said the Committee wanted emphasis on the following: The objective of the NDP around passenger rail in order to assess what had been achieved, 3rd quarter expenditure with focus on opex and capex to know how much had been spent and an update on the Thales Maziya Consortium contract.

PRASA Modernisation Programme
Dr Popo Molefe, PRASA board chairperson, said the National Development Plan (NDP) had required that the Agency made transportation accessible, safe and efficient. The Board would not give long speeches.

The Acting Group CEO of PRASA, Mr Nathi Khena, said the infrastructural condition of the Agency had deteriorated over the years and required significant capital investment and skills capacity to address the current challenges. Operational challenges included lack of funding for the mainline rail services. Short-term interventions included refurbishment of the existing rolling stock, fencing of the network and stations, improvement programme and buying skills in the market.

Mr Piet Sebola, Group Executive: Strategic Assets Development, PRASA, updated the Committee on the Agency modernisation programme. PRASA had initiated a programme to transform and modernise passenger railways in South Africa through the investment of R172 bn over 10 years (from 2013/14). The outlook encompassed acquisition of new rolling stock, station improvements, renewal of Metrorail branding. Manufacture of the first set of trains was on track and 30 cars (five trains) had been handed over for testing. The Gibela Rail Transport Consortium had contracted with various South Africa suppliers for 38 components for the train being manufactured in Brazil.182 people had been employed to date. 337 people trained so far, and 180 bursaries awarded at a total value of R12 million with the majority in engineering disciplines. The capital cost of the new factory for the manufacture of trains in South Africa was R1 bn. Gibela had started construction at Dunnottar Park, Ekurhuleni. Sod turning took place on the 4 March 2016 and the training centre would be operational by 4th quarter 2016. The overall project completion of Wolmerton Depot was 65%. The completion date of the construction of Braamfontein Depot was May 2018. The 120 km/h Perway and Electrical Programme had conducted 95% of assessment of the impacted rail corridors. Under the station modernisation programme, four stations would be completed in the 2016/17; 10 in 2017/18; 11 in 2019/20 and two stations in 2022/23. Under the signalling programme, the Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC) was 100% complete and the overall status of completion of Gauteng stage 1 and 2 was 28%. Overall progress in KZN was 48.6% installation of signalling equipment. In the Western Cape, PRASA appointed Thales Maziya Consortium for construction and installation of new signalling equipment with an overall progress of 40.4%. 18 commercial trains would be delivered between March 2016 and January 2017.

Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) briefing
Ms Thembi Msibi, RSR Chairperson, said PRASA and RSR were working together to deal with safety. There had been a decrease in operational occurrences but increase in fatalities and injuries. The RSR had focused on five areas of occurrences. PRASA was responsible for 80%. There was a major drop in level crossing fatalities and injuries because of changes in the infrastructure.

Mr Nkululeko Poya, RSR CEO, briefed the Committee on the Railway Safety Regulator. The RSR was working well with PRASA and the information provided by the latter was a true reflection of the status. There was a decrease of 7% in operational occurrences, an increase of 4% in fatalities and 40% in injuries from the previous period. The top five high risk occurrences included collisions during movement of rolling stock (25%); people struck by trains during movement of rolling stock (13%); people related occurrences: platform- train interchange (16%); level crossing occurrences (2%). There was 6% increase in the top five focus areas, 2% decrease in fatalities and 81% increase in injuries in previous period to current reporting period. Areas of concern were human factor challenges, technology/infrastructure challenges and external factors such as vandalism and theft. The signalling infrastructure in Gauteng was 51% acceptable; 31% having routine maintenance; 14% having corrective maintenance and 4% were unsafe. It was recommended that all safety related abnormalities and dangerous practices be rectified and a suitable maintenance strategy and plan be implemented. The Rolling Stock Update review considerations included reliability, availability, and maintenance and safety approach (RAMS), procedures, processes and standards that should be applied. The overall height (with new wheels) of the locomotive was 4.140mm and all labelling, signs, information on display and related to operation should be in the English language. The deployment of the Afro 4000 DC locomotive had been accepted and approval for commercial services will be subject to the following – maintenance arrangements, air quality test results, human factors assessment and installation of radio telecommunication system.

Mr M De Freitas (DA) said the time frame with regards to the arrival of locomotives and the construction of the actual factory facilities were completely different from the dates given in August 2015. What was the reason for the change of date? What was the status of the construction of the new factory as the new operational date was June 2017 but the original date was July 2016? Was the PRASA board sure the Brazilian locomotives technical specifications met the requirements and were the labeling, signs, information on the displays in English and not in Portuguese. He asked for more details on the lack of maintenance of existing structures, duplication of processes between PRASA and Transnet in their various activities, and the Siyangena Technology contract noted in the November 2015 presentation. The Times newspaper of the day reported that PRASA staff had not co-operated with the RSR investigation into the 2015 Denver station train crash – a report on which the Minister made public a day earlier. What could be the reason for that?

Mr C Hunsinger (DA) said there was R3.5m for the supply of additional iems such as latest technology, updated control system over and above the expenditure of R335bn for the purchase of 17 locomotives. He asked if the additional cost would be incurred separately or included in the locomotives that PRASA was expecting.

Dr Molefe replied that certain things were not taken into account when the locomotives were designed. Management had intended to use the money to fix deficiencies such as the assistant driver’s chair, side mirrors etc. In the meantime, no money had been spent because the issue of whether or not the contract would continue was being decided by the court.

Mr Hunsinger asked for the actual number of locomotives that would be received. What was the relationship between PRASA and RSR and in what way was the latter involved in the process to ensure it was an appropriate purchase? Locomotives should not arrive in South Africa until it was deemed suitable for our climate and conditions. What type of new wheels were those on the technical specification of locomotives? Were they deflectable? What was the overall height with the new wheels? Would the new wheels have an influence on the platforms?

Mr M Madika (NFP) said PRASA received 124 locomotives in 2009 and 62 of them were now in bad condition. What could have been the reason? Were they overused?

Acting CEO Khena replied that PRASA could not continue to build on something that was beyond repair. There had been meetings held with the Acting CEO of Transnet on the way forward.

Mr Madika questioned when PRASA expect to complete the work under short term intervention? What was the reason for the overcrowding of trains and how did the Agency intended dealing with the problem? PRASA did not mention the challenges regarding the new locomotives from Brazil while the second presentation from RSR said a lot about the challenges. PRASA failed to mention the challenges thereby giving the impression that everything was perfect? It was as though the Agency was not taking the challenges seriously.

Mr M Maswanganyi (ANC) said that RSR had raised the matter that PRASA continued to use cell phones as means of communication rather than back-up radios. PRASA should explain why it continued to flout the law. The Capital Intervention Programme to address infrastructural failures and maintenance came under short term. Was maintenance not supposed to be a long or medium term plan? It was important to keep maintaining or else there would be a collapse of the system. The National Transport Master Plan recommended a long-distance rail system of connections. PRASA as a result of its mandate provided more urban rail services and focused less on rural areas. This brought about in-bound migration that led to problems with housing. It was as though PRASA was for Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Where does the whole country fit in for PRASA? Perhaps it was a political question that needed to be engaged on with the Minister but it was raised as a comment on this platform.

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) said the Acting CEO spoke about lack of funding for the mainline rail services. It was not a secret that the mainline was not running frequently. If it continued, it would be in conflict with the NDP. This was a serious issue and what was PRASA doing about it.

CEO Khena replied that PRASA had the mandate but not the funding. It had become very difficult for the Agency to make ends meet.

Mr Ramatlakane asked what was the standing of the Agency in terms of Capex and Opex spending? What had been spent to date? PRASA cancelled the Braamfontein Depot contract. Would it be re- advertised? PRASA had instituted a number of forensic investigations on Opex. How much had been spent and what was the cost implication of the sod turning of the train manufacturing factory? Was the Agency saving for that or would the cost be taken out of R172 billion. How was that going to be managed?

Dr Molefe replied that what were seen were consequences of the investigations. It was a complex question. The balance of R2.25 billion was saved from taxpayers’ money. PRASA would leave it to the discretion of the court and would not go into details.

Mr Ramatlakane said the Chair of the Rail Safety Regulator had said it had not withdrawn its report on the locomotives. The Minister did indicate that the RSR had done that. The RSR had revised its submission on the deployment of the 4000 Locomotives subject to conditions. The author of the report had said the report had not been withdrawn. The Committee would stand by that.

Dr Molefe replied that the Chairperson of RSR had said the report had not been withdrawn. There had been a traffic of emails between the engineers of PRASA and RSR. He would not pass judgment on whether it had been withdrawn or not. The RSR was talking with the PRASA investigators.

The Chair of RSR added that the Safety Regulator had to give permission for the trains to be tested in the local environment as there was a difference between the factory and the local environment. Process was followed with regards to what was submitted for trains. With regards to the locomotives, process was not followed.

Mr Ramatlakane questioned the maintenance plan and the time frame for submission of deliberations.

Dr Molefe replied that he respected the right of Members to ask questions but he was concerned about going into details of the locomotives as it was an issue that was in court. PRASA would find it difficult to deliberate on the issue. The Agency could not pretend that things were normal and that it would receive the locomotives. PRASA cannot receive the locomotives until the matter was resolved by the court. The Members should bear with the Agency and the question should be if there was a Plan B whilst PRASA was busy with the court at the moment.

Mr Ramatlakane remarked that he asked questions based on what was presented.

Ms S Xego (ANC) asked why PRASA bypassed engineers in the country who were able to construct and went outside to purchase locomotives. Was it cost effective and time saving? There had been a lot noise and tongue wagging about the matter. The PRASA board should help to by answering the questions. How were train drivers recruited and what type of training did they receive in the Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC)? One life lost was one life too many. RSR had said there would be a consultation between municipalities and PRASA and that was pleasant news.

Mr M Sibande (ANC) said when the Committee supported PRASA; it was based on facts on the ground. He was surprised at the sudden improved relations between RSR and PRASA as the former had promised to have a showdown with the latter a few months ago for non compliance with its requirements. Replacement of rails and improvement programmes should be long and not short-term. It was alleged by RSR that the trains bought were not conducive to South Africa. He noted that 135 stations were recommended to be upgraded nationally. Were stations from disadvantaged areas like Limpopo included? Why did PRASA treat Northern Cape as though it was in another island? There were no lights and toilet facilities in some stations. PRASA was dealing with humans and basic infrastructure such as lights and toilets should be in place.

Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF) said the Board should explain ‘buy skills in the market’ under short-term interventions. PRASA was looking to invest approximately R172 billion over the next 10 years. In subsequent presentations, this should be spread per financial year. When were the trains from Brazil going to be used? How many small businesses and co-operatives were assisted, empowered or incubated? What was the security status of the new trains? The statistics on the accidents between people and trains showed a lack of public awareness. What was PRASA doing about this? The signage at level crossings was very poor. What was the capacity of the law enforcement of the RSR as regards the use of cell phones by PRASA rather than radio for communication? Were there punitive measures and fines for non compliance?

The RSR Chair replied that RSR was putting regulations in place to ensure that all operators abided by that.

Mr Mulaudzi questioned where RSR was when the locomotives arrived from Spain? The Safety Regulator should have checked before the locomotives went to rail.

Mr Radebe pointed out that it had already been noted when the Committee had visited Johannesburg that this was due to lack of communication. He observed that the only measure put in place to address the human factor challenges was fencing. There was a need for more measures. Most of the accidents involving trains were within the urban areas. What was the significance of that? Were the people in the urban areas ignorant or in haste? The second and third quarter funds were not spent, and the Committee expected a better performance in the fourth quarter. Was PRASA really performing as expected? How would the train drivers be ready for the 130 km test driving? The board should answer as many questions as possible and the answers to outstanding question should be sent in writing to the Committee.

Mr Sibande asked when the locomotives report would be ready as the Committee did not want surprises from the media.

Dr Molefe said it was not a matter for discussion. The matter was before the court for the contract to be cancelled as a result of the gross irregularity in the way the matter was adjudicated upon. It was an exercise in futility until the court gave a decision.

CEO Khena said there seemed to be a bit of confusion that needed some clarity. The locomotives were the ones in dispute before the court. The trains were different – 20 of the trains were bought in Brazil and 580 of them were built in South Africa.

Mr Radebe asked the RSR to give a timeframe for when the regulations would be ready.

CEO Poya replied that RSR was working well with the Agency. The draft regulations would be ready by the end of March and non compliance will attract Section 45. After the last RSR meeting with the Committee, there had been meetings between the two agencies at board levels and lots of ground was covered which had made RSR comfortable in terms of interventions put in place by PRASA.

Mr Jan-David de Villiers, Acting DDG: Rail Transport, Department of Transport, said the National Transport Strategic Framework did not have the requirement for rail transport to be sustainable.

CEO Khena requested that the Committee Secretary send the outstanding questions to PRASA so that the Board could respond in writing.

Mr Ramatlakane asked for the timeframe for when the Committee would receive the answers to the outstanding questions. He suggested Tuesday next week.

Dr Molefe said in government, there was a principle of money following functions. What was the Committee doing to ensure PRASA had money as it was the responsibility of the Committee to argue for budget.

Mr Sibande replied that it was true that politicians put forward budgets but PRASA should make proposals and sensitize the Committee so that such proposals were processed.

CEO Khena said National Treasury had written to PRASA and the Department of Transport, saying that they would not support the funding of the projects and there was a need for the two ministries to meet to deal with the projects. Members should help in the matter.

 The meeting was adjourned.

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: