Metrorail train Western Cape

Metrorail units at Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa / Image via Wikimedia Commons

John Steenhuisen op-ed: The problem with PRASA

Chief Whip of the official opposition on the importance of rail safety.

Metrorail train Western Cape

Metrorail units at Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa / Image via Wikimedia Commons

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Rail safety impacts the lives of millions of South Africans who rely on trains to get them to their places of work and learning.

In the Western Cape alone, Metrorail – an entity managed by PRASA – accounts for more than 40% of the public transport market share with 650 000 passenger trips made per day. Sadly, South Africans can no longer reliably depend on our trains to deliver them to their destinations safely and on time.

In the past year alone 495 South Africans lost their lives on our trains and 2079 were injured. Since 2010, a shocking 3642 fatalities and 15 634 injuries have been recorded on our national railways.

Instead of investing their profits into infrastructure and additional security, these incidents meant that in the last three years, over R213.744 million has been paid out by PRASA to victims of train crashes, whilst R 503.37 million was lost due to vandalism and derailments.

The failure of PRASA

It is clear from these statistics that the failure of PRASA to maintain our rail network is yet another example of how the ANC led government, and its failing SOE’s, are killing both the South African people and our economy.

Due to a lack of security investment and infrastructure, by October last year Metrorail in the Western Cape retained only 42 trains of the 88 it needs to operate its timetable. Incidents of theft, such as cables, also increased by 13.8% nationally over the last year, with the Western Cape recording 1 182 incidents alone. 658 incidents of vandalism were also recorded.

Rail Enforcement Unit

With these increasingly desperate statistics on the upward move, the DA recognizes that the future economic success of this region depend on a stable and sustainable rail network. Because of this, the DA-led City of Cape and Western Cape government in partnership with PRASA have recently introduced a Rail Enforcement Unit.

Whilst this initiative falls outside of the legislated jurisdiction of local and provincial governments, it illustrates the DA’s commitment to fixing the broken railway system, so that residents of the Western Cape are able to get to and from their daily activities, safely.

By the middle of this month the REU has already made 36 arrests; confiscated 379.5m of cable and 800kg of railway signal cable; seized 21 stolen cellphones, issued 67 Section 56 notices to appear in court; and conducted 332 inspections of hot-spot areas and scrapyards.

The successes of the Rail Enforcement Unit in the Western Cape are just beginning but cannot be under-estimated in their ability to improve the lives of rail users in our Province.

A DA led National Government would immediately replicate this model throughout the country. A DA led national government would also merge Transnet and Prasa under the Department of Transport; cede control of Metrorail services to metropolitan municipalities; and introduce a dedicated Transport Police Service.

Our plan is well designed, easily implementable and will create a safe and well-managed railway system which puts commuters first. The fruits are already being borne in the Western Cape.

The solutions exist, now is the time to come together to put the DA in charge of the services that most significantly impact our lives, as together we build one South Africa for all.