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4 TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE PRASA South Africa’s railway sector has been in dire need of upgrade for several years. However over the last five years, the industry has been seeing an influx of investment and has become a focal point for the government who is now putting South Africa’s railways within its top priorities. Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa is one of the organisations that has been leading some of the most recent developments in the commuter rail and transport sector, and its recent multi-billion dollar tender is gearing up to get underway.
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6 TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE PRASA “To be quite frank, it has been a long time. Over three decades of under investment in the rail industry and it has gone through a considerable decline, which has been problematic for us.” - Piet Sebola, group executive of Strategic Asset Development with PRASA. artist’s rendering of PRASA’s new passenger trains. These sleek modern machines will be built by Gibela rail transport consortium. Historically, road and rail based passenger As such, in 2006 the National Rail Plan was services in South Africa were provided by the approved by Cabinet with the goal of identifying South African Transport Services (SATS), a state- the funding and investment requirements for owned entity. But from April 1990 onwards, these the country’s ageing passenger rail, especially in functions became the responsibility of Transnet light of the quickly approaching global event that Limited and the South African Rail Commuter would be arriving on South Africa’s doorstep in Corporation Limited (SARCC), with the former re- 2010, the FIFA World Cup. sponsible for long-distance road and rail passen- At the forefront of the government’s efforts ger services and the latter taking care of com- to transform public transport in South Africa, in muter rail services. Over the years new divisions 2009 the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and subsidiaries were formed to manage dif- (PRASA) was born, consolidating all of the passen- ferent areas of the sector, but the lack of clarity ger rail entities to better manage and aggressively between the groups led to issues that ultimately address the under-performance of rail passenger impacted the maintenance of the railways. services into something more modern, efficient and
8 TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE PRASA customer-focused as well as champion some much developments in the works, the railway is poised needed investment in the sector. for some serious growth. “To be quite frank, it has been a long time. Over three decades of under investment in the Company Structure rail industry and it has gone through a consider- Operating within six mega-cities across the country, able decline, which has been problematic for us,” today PRASA manages over 374 stations and trans- says Piet Sebola, group executive of Strategic ports over 2.2 million passengers daily through its Asset Development with PRASA. local metropolitan line, and 1.4 million passengers He explains that other than some new trains per annum through its main line passenger service. that were brought on in the mid-80s, much of the The organisation consists of three divisions technology in South Africa’s railways have been and two subsidiaries. The divisions are split there since the 1950s. between: a) PRASA Rail Operations, which is the However, with major focus now coming rail operating division that manages commuter from the government, as well as several new rail services in urban metropolitan areas under
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10 TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE PRASA The Intelligent Choice With a solid track record spanning over half a century, GIBB has established itself as a partner of choice. Backed by a Level 2 BBBEE rating, GIBB provides engineering solutions to a diverse range of markets across the African continent. People • Expertise • Excellence firstname.lastname@example.org | www.gibb.co.za | +27 11 519 4600 African Business Journal_197x121.indd 1 26/03/2013 11:42:16 AM “We weren’t just looking for a bid for a modern train, but a partner who could journey with us on an economic development side of things. We wanted someone to come with a local factory, we wanted somebody who could contribute a high level of local content and, of course, we wanted somebody who could give us a much better price and we believe Gibela Rail Transport Consortium showed that.” PIET SEBOLA, GROUP EXECUTIVE OF STRATEGIC ASSET DEVELOPMENT WITH PRASA.
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12 TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE PRASA Take your business to the next level Our solution ensures vehicle selection and Contact Absa you will never have acquisition, disposal, Vehicle Management to manage your finance, maintenance, Solutions on fleet alone. Absa license and fine 0861 600 800 or visit Vehicle Management administration, fleet www.absa.co.za Solutions will guide reporting and much your business on more. Absa Bank Limited Reg No 1986/004794/06. Authorised Financial Services Provider. Registered Credit Provider. Reg No NCRCP7. someone to come with a local factory, we wanted will initially provide communications between somebody who could contribute a high level of lo- drivers and control centres, as well as eventually cal content and, of course, we wanted somebody offering automatic train protection functionality. who could give us a much better price and we “There’s a lot of work ahead of us. We’re not believe Gibela showed that.” going to change the railway overnight. It’s going to In March, PRASA also signed a R450 million take it’s time, but we have to make sure the build- contract with Chinese information and technol- ing blocks are in place to ensure we achieve our ogy giant Huawei for a new digital signalling radio main objective, which is to put rail in the centre of system for its train communication and manage- public transportation in this country,” says Sebola. ment that meets the necessary modern safety requirements, replacing its current radio system Future Vision that has proved to be inefficient. South Africa’s rail industry is one of many investment According to reports, this new system will stories coming out of the continent and in June, have a 1,200 kilometre fiber optic backbone and PRASA, along with representatives from various
JUNE 2013 The African Business Journal 13 integration across borders to not only make it more efficient for commuters to travel between countries, but to boost intra-African trade. “In 20 years’ time, we will not have a reason why Africa can’t have high-speed integration rail- way system. Why can’t South Africa connect with other parts of Africa’s railway? We don’t have an excuse for that,” he says. However, prior to getting there, Sebola recog- nises that South Africa and other growing econo- mies, like Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya, will have to see some maturity in their rail sectors ARTIST’S RENDERING OF THE INTERIORS OF THE NEW with “commuter rail taking a centre stage,” and PASSENGER TRAINS. events like Africa Transport and Infrastructure Show are an important step in getting the right other rail operators across the continent like conversations happening to achieve those goals. Mozambique’s CFM, Tanzania’s TAZARA and “We’re going to work very hard in the next Nigerian Railways, will be coming together at the five to 10 years and we want to see changes 16th annual Africa Transport and Infrastructure and offer service excellence,” says Sebola. Show in Johannesburg to network and share lessons “Our cities will not survive with inefficient pub- learned over the years. lic transportation. We want people to be able “We always look forward to the Africa Rail. to predict their travel time and make sure that It’s a time when Africa can connect and we can rail is facilitating the movement of people as say ‘this is what is going on in South Africa, efficiently as possible in a cost-effective way. what’s going on in the rest of Africa?’ That’s It’s going to take a lot of work to make sure it always important from an operator point of view becomes a reality, but we want rail to take cen- and from an investor point of view,” says Sebola. tre stage from a transport perspective.” TAB What he hopes is a major part of the discus- sion is talking about how Africa can achieve rail http://www.prasa.com/
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