President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the unveiling of the new Prasa train fleet as a milestone, saying they will go a long way to improve travel services for commuters.
The launch of the new trains is part of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa)’s 20-year modernisation programme. The trains were manufactured at the Gibela Factory in Pretoria.
The programme aims to revitalise the rail industry through local manufacturing of parts, maintenance, the establishment of training facilities, the achievement of 65% local content and training and skills development for Prasa employees and young people interested in the rail industry.
The new trains rolled in at Cape Town Station and the president boarded for a ride. He travelled past the Salt River and Woodstock stations until Mowbray – before heading back to town.
Reflecting on a recent incident in which he was stuck on a train for hours in Pretoria, the president said he met with Transport Minister Blade Nzimande, the Prasa Board and management to discuss improving the customer experience on the country’s trains with the aim of dealing with delays and safety for travellers, among other issues.
During an engagement with commuters last month, the train on which the president was travelling broke down, turning a 45-minute journey into a three-hour horror trip.
“I went onto a train in Mabopane hoping to be in Pretoria in about 30 minutes. It took us three hours. Firstly, the train arrived late and it was overcrowded and the people who were being transported were frustrated.
“They also told me, ‘Mr President, this is our daily experience, this is how we roll every day.’ We are going to make sure that our trains arrive on time and that they are not crowded, but more importantly, that they are safe,” he said.