Prasa not ready to resume Metrorail services, says Mbalula

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Saturday said his departmet had revised the timeline of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service, and decided they were not ready to proceed.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Saturday said his departmet had revised the timeline of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service, and decided they were not ready to proceed.
Image: Via twitter/@Fikile Mbalula

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has delayed the resumption of train services in Gauteng and the rest of the country saying Prasa is not ready to start operating.

Mbalula told the nation on Saturday that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA presented plans before him and the department of transport, but they were not convinced it was safe to allow train service to resume.

“Through our on-going evaluation of Prasa state of readiness to resume operations, we have concluded that Prasa is not ready to resume with Metrorail commuter services. We’ll continue to work closely with Prasa in assessing each line and put measures in place to achieve an acceptable level of readiness".

"We’ve therefore revised our timeline in respect of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service. The revised target date is July 1 2020,” Mbalula said.

On July 1, train services will resume on the following lines:

  • Pretoria to Pienaarspoort;
  • Cape Town to Simonstown;
  • East London to Berling; and
  • Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage

Sowetan reported on Friday that Prasa was gearing to open its corridor on Monday between Pretoria and Pienaarspoort station in Mamelodi.

Prasa had told the Gauteng portfolio committee on transport that it was ready to resume train operation on this corridor on Monday. However, these plans were subject to approval by Mbalula and the department of transport.

A detailed plan was presented before the committee by Prasa administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo. The plan included how stations would be marked for social distancing, screening of commuters and deployment of additional security and marshals to monitor compliance to the lockdown regulations.

The committee said it was not convinced that Prasa was ready to resume operations, so did commuter organizations. Mbalula echoed this sentiment.

“Prasa was ready to go on Monday but we can’t take that risk. There are thousands  of commuters who depend on that[trains]. It has enabled us in terms of our planning to utilize June to be ready. We are confident that from July 1, Prasa will back on operations".

"There is no time that we can allow people to be on top of each other. Otherwise we would be opening a service simply to become a vehicle for spreading the virus. We cannot allow that. We have done this in the best interest of safety,” Mbalula said.

Meanwhile, Mbalula said long distance trains will remain closed under Level 3 lockdown. Gautrain, which resume its operation at the beginning of May, will start its airport service on Monday.

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