President Jacob Zuma last week unveiled 13 new passenger trains to be operated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’s) Metrorail division.
The X’Trapolis Mega trains were built by the Gibela Rail Transportation Consortium and form part of those to be delivered under a R59-billion contract to supply PRASA with 600 new trains.
The development is part of PRASA’s 20-year rail modernisation programme in response to government’s mandate to modernise passenger rail throughout the country.
“The project is part of the bigger plan by PRASA to roll out the ‘train system of the future’ [and] to modernise and improve the passenger travel experience in South Africa. This is imperative after 40 years of underinvestment in the sector, which has resulted in old and unreliable trains and rail infrastructure [still being in operation],” Zuma said at the launch in Pretoria.
He added that the investment in the modernisation programme would ensure that government changed the rail landscape of the country, adding that the launch was part of the programme of building and renewing infrastructure.
“We made a commitment as government to maintain road infrastructure, upgrade rail infrastructure and services and also to build a reliable public transportation service.
“Investment towards rail infrastructure and services will total R173-billion by 2030,” he said.
He further noted that PRASA’s modernisation programme would focus on station and depot modernisation and the upgrading of signalling infrastructure, as well as railway track and platform corrections.
“It is a worthwhile investment in infrastructure that will improve the lives of the South African people that will last for decades,” he said.
Also speaking at the launch, Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi said the new trains signalled the end of trains arriving late and would hopefully be the end of trains being burned and damaged in protest over poor service delivery.
“The new trains are on a par with the Gautrain. They offer a smooth, first class, air-conditioned ride,” he said, adding that rail was the backbone of the public transport system in Gauteng.