I am heartened by the announcement of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana in Parliament earlier today that the National Government intends to introduce reforms in the rail sector by bringing in third party operators and competition.

This is sadly too little and almost possibly too late, but nonetheless most welcome.

For the past five years, the City of Cape Town has been appealing to the National Minister of Transport for the necessary permissions that will allow us to begin a process of taking over passenger rail from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

This request has fallen on deaf ears.

The near nuclear implosion of passenger rail in Cape Town is all too well documented and experienced.

Approximately 570 000 passenger trips per day have either moved from passenger rail to road-based transport modes, or, these passengers are no longer economically active. Capetonians have deserted the trains because the service is unreliable, unpredictable and unsafe. This shift has resulted in congested roads and longer travelling times and higher costs for commuters.

It also came at a huge cost to our local economy because of the impact on productivity.

Passenger rail should be the backbone of our public transport system. It is the most efficient and cost-effective mode of transport the world over. No developed or developing city in the world can function without trains that run, and run on time.

We are looking forward to engaging the National Government about the announcement.

Cape Town is ready to ensure that our residents have access to a reliable and affordable, efficient passenger rail service and we have been trying to make this happen for several years now.

In late 2018 we launched the Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) to improve safety of Metrorail commuters and rail infrastructure. The REU was jointly funded by the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and PRASA. The REU provided an additional 100 Law Enforcement officers to assist Metrorail with security challenges. These included sustained attacks on the rail infrastructure and rolling stock assets, the sabotage of the urban rail network, and criminals targeting commuters and rail employees.

Sadly, the REU terminated on 30 June 2020 because PRASA was not willing to fund or make a financial contribution any more.