Will Mbalula’s war room be able to fix Prasa’s core problems?

2019-08-11 20:31

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has launched a war room to sort out the problems at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).

The war room will be used as a tool to track the progress of the plan to improve the country’s railways.

At the core of this turnaround strategy is a process to modernise infrastructure and technology that is long outdated.

However, Steve Harris, secretary-general of the United National Transport Union, said the war room would only succeed if the fundamental problems around passenger train services are resolved.

These, he said, included cable theft, a shortage of spare parts to fix Prasa’s broken trains and the inability of control rooms to communicate with passengers in the event of a delay.

Read: Prasa: 1500 coaches vandalised, R636 million in arson attack losses

Mbalula said the war room would be a game changer and would start functioning tomorrow under the control of director-general Alec Moemi.

“The war room is a physical space that will enable those deployed to it to make rapid decisions based on the information they gather from the operations on the ground, on an hour-by-hour basis.”

Kaapstad Parliament Fikile Mbalula Minister van Po
Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Peter Abrahams

It will track service recovery, safety management and the modernisation programme, as well as organisational and operation progress within the first 100 days.

“On a daily basis, the team will start the day with an assessment of the previous day’s performance and identify issues that hamper performance and make decisions on how to resolve them,” Mbalula said.

“The relevant officials with delegated authority will action these discussions and report to the war room through daily status meetings. Performance will be managed and monitored daily to ensure sustained improvement.”

Mbalula has until December 31 to show an improvement. He said there is an urgency to address the crisis of South Africa’s railways.

“The urgency of addressing Prasa’s turnaround cannot be overemphasised and tangible results that people can see must be realised in the shortest possible time.”

The announcement comes after a dramatic increase in train accidents and an appalling service which has frustrated passengers so much that they have sometimes set fire to trains.

The following targets need to be reached by December 31:

Improve the on-schedule arrival of Metrorail’s trains from 50.2% to 85%;

Improve the on-schedule arrival of the long-distance Shosholoza Meyl trains from 3% to 50%;

Available Metrorail train sets must be increased from 157 to 291 to prevent overcrowding and crime;

The available locomotives for Shosholoza Meyl must be increased by 20%; and

Decrease the total length of routes with speed limits, owing to poor infrastructure and security risks, from 167km to 100km.

While both Prasa and the transport department have been in the process of modernisation for three years, the 100-day commitment is an incentive to pick up the speed. – Antoinette Slabbert and News24

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May 31 2020