image: The Star
On Monday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that the Cabinet had adopted a white paper targeted at strengthening South Africa’s key rail infrastructure.
He stated that the policy was adopted by the Cabinet in March.
The white paper would be gazetted on Monday, according to Mbalula.
Transnet lost R8 billion in the financial year 2020/21, prompting the acceptance of the white paper.
The new policy outlines the department’s ambitions to differ from previous strategies by introducing fresh plans for auctioning the growth of South Africa’s railway network.
It also makes room for private sector investment and good economic regulation, ensuring that both primary and secondary networks have equitable access.
Mbalula described the release of the white paper on Monday as “historic.”
“With the publishing of the White Paper on National Rail Policy in the Government Gazette today, South Africa enters a new era and a revival of its railways.”
“Since the first railway from Cape Town to Wellington opened in 1859, we’ve come a long way.” He stated, “That was 163 years ago.”
“The publishing of the White Paper on National Rail Policy marks a new epoch and a decisive break with the past, when the trains were exploited to separate society and give credence to a racial oppression system,” he continued.
Despite its long history, the railway industry lacks a well-coordinated national rail policy, and as a result, the efficiency of local railways has been harmed over time.
“The National Rail Policy aspires to put rail on a sound foundation so that it can play a major role as the backbone of a smoothly integrated transport value chain capable of making a meaningful contribution to the economy,” Mbalula continued.
“The White Paper on National Rail Policy’s key thrusts are enabling investment in our railways, with particular attention to the exploitation of rail’s genetic technologies to achieve renaissance in the following market spaces: heavy haul, heavy intermodal, which includes double-stacked containers, contemporary urban and regional rapid transit, as well as higher-speed of 160 to 200km/h and high-speed up to 300km/h,” he added.
Mbalula said the new policy would empower the private sector to run passenger rail networks through concessions when the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) faced capacity constraints.
“As a result, an alternative commuter rail service will be introduced in the Republic, providing much-needed mobility, alleviating financing restrictions, and improving the competitiveness of our commuter rail system.”
“The White Paper lays out a multi-decade vision for how South Africa’s railway sector should develop over time, providing regulatory certainty and facilitating investment and private sector participation.”
“Public transportation is a functional area of concurrent national and provincial legislative competence in South Africa’s Constitution, although municipal public transportation is an exclusive local government competence.”
“Commuter rail is a critical component of our public transportation system. As a result, we must develop a model that will enable cities and provinces to create a seamless integrated public transportation system, with commuter rail as its backbone,” Mbalula added.
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