Earlier today I attended the Transport Minister’s engagement with stakeholders, rail experts, and the business sector on the implementation of the White Paper on National Rail Policy.

It was promising for Minister Fikile Mbalula to reference the City of Cape Town, and our efforts in this space during his speech. I also had a collegial discussion with the Minister where he assured me that cooperation and good relations with the City will continue and be maintained.

The devolution of the rail function to local government was confirmed at this engagement that was also attended by Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.

The engagement and interactions were encouraging.

However, now that the policy is in place, and the commitments from all parties once again confirmed, we must move on from talking to taking action.

The radical shift in how we approach rail operations across South Africa can only succeed with practical implementation against strict timeframes. Today’s engagement was encouraging, but South Africans need an efficient and reliable rail service right now.

Talks about restoring passenger rail as the backbone of public transport have been going on for far too long. Time has run out.

On this front, the City of Cape Town is taking the lead: on 1 July 2022 we will commence with a feasibility study on taking over the management of passenger rail from National Government.

The study will assist us to comprehend what this entails in detail. We need a fully functioning and efficient passenger rail system to grow our economy. The feasibility study will inform us of the associated financial costs and risks, and which functions of the passenger rail system we should take over, and how to phase this takeover.

We will keep Capetonians informed about the progress of the study, and the milestones achieved.

All of us who attended today’s engagement with Minister Mbalula agree that rail has a pivotal role to play in driving economic growth. Rail is the most efficient and cost-effective form of transport – be it for goods, or for getting commuters to their destinations.

The urgency to get our trains back on track cannot be overstated, given the rocketing fuel prices and its impact on consumers, particularly those from lower income households. The White Paper represents a welcome sea change in transport policy, and all but fully endorses the move to devolve the rail function to local government.