South Africa’s Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the lack of critical skills, unstable leadership, vandalism, and theft of rail infrastructure among others are the major challenges facing the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
Following early morning inspections at the Mayfair, Kliptown and Germiston train stations, Mbalula briefed the press on Monday. The three stations were among Prasa infrastructure recently vandalised in and around Johannesburg.
Mbalula stated that Gauteng Metrorail was currently experiencing an alarming increase in the number of reported cases for infrastructure theft and vandalism, ranging from overhead electrical lines, electrical substations and vandalism of stations and depot buildings.
He said illicit trading of copper and steel on the black market is at the core of the unprecedented levels of vandalism at the rail facilities.
He further added that while this had been happening for a long time, it saw a spike during the COVID-19 lockdown countrywide.
“We would have seen today that most of our trains are running on electrical capacity, in terms of the locomotives that we have. We’ve had to shift from that to diesel, which is very expensive for the company because of the vandalism of sub-stations.”, he added.
Mbalula said an estimated R57billion — which is 27% of the department’s budget would be allocated to the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (PRASA) in the medium term to improve damaged infrastructure, modernise and increase the number of operating trains to avoid overcrowding.