Home South African Union sceptical of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s rail privatisation plan

Union sceptical of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s rail privatisation plan

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Ramaphosa had proposed the privatisation of some of the key train routes in a bid to improve transport access

Untu general secretary Steve Harris said any private company investing in commuter trains would be throwing their money into a black hole. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA

Cape Town – The United National Transport Union (Untu) said it did not believe anything will come of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to privatise some of main passenger routes in the country, nor will it assist with the goal of alleviating poverty by providing safe and affordable transport to workers.

Untu general secretary Steve Harris said any private company investing in commuter trains would be throwing their money into a black hole.

This was after reports that Ramaphosa had proposed the privatisation of some of the key train routes in a bid to improve transport access.

Reports indicated the proposal formed part of the president’s new economic recovery plan and would primarily focus on routes in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Harris said the problem with the country’s passenger rail had always been a lack of political will on the part of Ramaphosa and ministers of the various state departments who must work together to ensure that the passenger rail infrastructure was safeguarded and protected while they modernised and restored what was left.

United Commuters Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said privatisation had huge implications and would forever change the landscape, and with it came real and irreversible consequences. Jardim said UCV would propose a transport lekgotla to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula with all stakeholders to discuss the viability of privatising Metrorail.

Mbalula had recently opened the rail traffic control centre in the Western Cape, saying the centre would bring with it improved efficiencies in the management of rail transport. He said their biggest challenge remained the Central Line. “We are commencing with stakeholder engagement to introduce, as an interim measure, a hybrid model that includes the use of buses to continue to ferry our commuters.”

He said the other element of the hybrid service involved an integrated ticketing system between Prasa rail and Autopax Buses to transport passengers to Cape Town from Area Central. “We expect to commence with implementation around January 2021.”

Mbalula said the Western Cape was receiving new trains, and that an initial 10 carriages would be used on the Cape Flats line first. They would be using 22 carriages.