40% of Metrorail trains are out-of-service

And only half the rest have the standard 12 carriages

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Photo of burnt Metrorail carriage
Many Metrorail carriages have been destroyed by arson. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Commuter activist group #UniteBehind has asked why PRASA is not fixing its out-of-service fleet. This follows last month’s unveiling of two new trains. Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande said 95 new trains will be supplied by August 2020.

As PRASA focuses on the distribution of new trains, nearly half its countrywide fleet is out-of-service, either for maintenance or because of vandalism, arson and accidents. This is according to the 2020/22 PRASA Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) corporate plan published on 31 March.

The number of trains decreased from 288 sets in 2013/14, to 200 by the end of 2017/18. Since then it has decreased to 174, or 60% of the required capacity. (An older report states that PRASA requires 287 train sets.)

Of these 174 available trains, only half have the standard 12 coaches.

“This decline happened despite the general overhaul program and repair interventions that amounted to billions of rand,” according to the document.

All of these shortages contribute to the delays that have been plaguing the rail system and affecting commuters for years. According to data in the 2019/21 PRASA MTEF corporate plan, the Western Cape has an average train delay of 21 minutes; KwaZulu-Natal trains have an average delay of 31 minutes; and Gauteng trains have an average delay of 45 minutes. But these data are from 2016. [We are unable to verify these estimates, and are a little sceptical of them.]

PRASA reports that track condition is deteriorating across all regions, as measured by the Track Quality index. This deterioration of infrastructure leads to the implementation of more speed restrictions for the safety of commuters, which then translates into slower trains and increased delays.

The delays and overcrowding have caused commuters to become unwilling to buy tickets. According to the 31 March document, Metrorail is recording fewer than 700,000 passenger trips per weekday when it is supposed to be capable of carrying 2.5 to 3 million passengers per day.

The estimated number of passenger trips for 2018/19 is 213 million, less than one third of the number a decade ago.

UPDATE on 16 May at 15:15: According to PRASA spokesperson Nana Zenani, an average of 37 coaches or three train sets are repaired per month. PRASA brought in external contractors to assist with the maintenance and repair process.

In response to why there has been a decline in available trains despite the general overhaul program and billions of rand worth of repair interventions, Zenani said, “Vandalism is the major contribution to this decline and is influencing both train and infrastructure.”

Leaked documents known as #PRASALeaks have shown how massive corruption has caused the deterioration of Metrorail over the past decade.

TOPICS:  Prasa / Metrorail

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