The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) will terminate services of three lines in Gauteng for the rehabilitation and restoration of electrical cables (OHTE) and traction substations that were vandalised or stolen during the level 5 hard lockdown.
“This will also allow for PRASA to run more efficient train services and to introduce the electrical motor units (electrical trains) which form part of PRASA’s modernisation programme,” the agency said on Tuesday.
PRASA has acknowledged that the disruption of these services will come at a huge cost to rail commuters, but the benefits will be worth the pain felt in the interim.
The three lines will become construction sites, as the appointed contractors will take over the lines to start the rehabilitation and restoration work.
Closure of the three lines in the Gauteng region have been scheduled as follows:
Pienaarspoort to Pretoria – 23 May until August 2022
Naledi to Johannesburg – 23 May until September 2022
Leralla to Elandsfontein – 30 May until October 2022
PRASA said sustained theft and vandalism of PRASA’s rail assets has disrupted train services across all provinces in which it operates.
“Notwithstanding the cancelation of security contracts, the situation was further exacerbated by the travel bans imposed during the [COVID-19] level 5 hard lockdown which left our infrastructure vulnerable.
“In April 2021, PRASA devised an Accelerated Corridor approach in recovering services focusing on the top ten high volume passenger rail corridors for initial resumption of services.
“This essentially means that corridors will be brought back into service in phases. The ten corridors were selected based on the demand for services, the extent of damage and the time required to recover and rehabilitate the infrastructure,” the agency said.
This phased-in approach in recovering the lines is based on the extent of damage and time it would take to rehabilitate the damaged infrastructure.
“Where we had the most vandalism and theft, we were able to run limited services using diesel locomotives. In Gauteng, PRASA is currently working on four priority corridors which will be ready to run train services by end of October,” the agency said.
Central line update
Meanwhile, work has begun to recover the services on the central line between Cape Town and Langa while the process to relocate illegal settlements on the rail tracks is underway.
This process is led by the Human Development Agency as the implementing agency of the relocation project.
Services in the Cape Town to Langa via Mutual are currently operational, while Cape Town to Langa via Pinelands is 90% ready for recovery.
Work is underway to recover the services between Langa and Nyanga as well as Cape Town to Bellville via Sarepta, as part of the Phase 1 of the recovery programme.
“We have put in place an integrated security plan to safeguard and protect our infrastructure. Plans have also been put in place to prevent further encroachment on our rail reserve. PRASA is rebuilding the damaged rail network corridor-by-corridor, track-by-track,” the agency said.