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South Africa: Railways Can Act as a Backbone of Transport System
May 01, 2007

With adequate investment & management, railways could become the core of South African transport system, as per Jeff Radebe, SA transport minister.

South African economy is dependent on public transport effectiveness & provision of proper service, said Jeff Radebe - South African transport minister in Pretoria on November 21 2006.

Radebe highlighted that commuters prefer taxis to trains. Trains appear unattractive to them because of delays, overcrowding, unreliability & lack of security. He said that passengers wanted crime-free & reliable railway system without unnecessary delays. New trains (with 10M5 coaches) will help address these issues.

These trains will include warning system for alerting passengers whenever the doors are closing; emergency lighting if there's power failure & doors which can't be opened whilst the train is in motion. Train will also include heating system & temperature control.

The 10M5 coaches are electrical units that include motor & trailer coaches. Around 75 % of motor coach space is for passengers & rest is for driver & electrical equipment.

For introduction of 10M5 coaches, coach-upgrade program- unveiled by SAARC (South African Rail Commuter Co-operation) & Metrorail- must be given top priority, the minister said.

He added, SAARC & Metrorail had made investments worth US $ 5.5 Million in 3-year coach-upgrade program, which would have 1,600 coaches refurbished completely by 2010. "This is an important milestone", he said, "however, govt. couldn't be complacent until economy is aggressively driven by competitive & sustainable transportation system."

Once commuters start using the trains again, he said, a single trace could replace more than 100 taxis or 300-380 cars running on country roads. This will also help in reducing harmful emissions from vehicles by 80 %. New coaches will help in addressing the problems due to ageing rail fleet & will come as good news to commuters.

An analyst at
RNCOS, specializing in transportation sector said, "Poor transport conditions in South Africa can be attributed to liberalization of transport in 1980s which saw people moving to road from railways. Overloading of heavy vehicles has damaged road networks & under-investments in the sector have lead to deteriorating service standards."

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