Arrive alive without having to drive

Simon Nare

Simon Nare

Get on the train, travel in style and spare lives on South African roads.

This is the message the South African Rail Commuter Corporation will be drumming as it embarks on an intensive campaign to get people on board the Shosholoza Meyl.

Cabinet in 2004 decided that the passenger rail entities comprising the SARCC, Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl be consolidated into a single national rail passenger company reporting to the Department of Transport.

The first phase entailed the consolidation of Metrorail within SARCC and the second phase, the establishment of a new passenger rail company (PAXco) incorporating the assets, finances and personnel of Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl into SARCC.

The long-distance passenger train will from April next year be under the SARCC's wing.

But the corporation is wasting no time in luring passengers.

Currently Shosholoza Meyl is under Spoornet which largely operates goods trains.

SARCC chief executive Tshepo Lucky Montana is thrilled at the prospect of running Shosholoza from next year.

He strongly believes that more people should be lured to the passenger train and in the process reduce road carnage which claims hundreds of lives every year, especially during the festive season when people head to different holiday destinations.

He admits it will not be easy to convince people to leave the comfort of their cars for that of the trains.

"From a transport point of view, we need a safer and reliable rail service that will ensure moving people from rural areas to the cities.

"We are convinced that we have a strong market. We need to get more South Africans to use the passenger services," he said.

Part of his plans is to introduce regional and inter-city services.

"For instance, there should be a service from East London and Umtata or Johannesburg to Rustenburg. There are lots of people travelling between these places but there is no rail service," he said.

He enthuses that people travelling to Cape Town and other destinations can load their cars on the train and drive off with them upon arrival.

Montana said negotiations with the Limpopo government were afoot to introduce a service to carry ZCC members on their annual pilgrimage in Moria.