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The City intends to appoint a multi-disciplinary team of rail professionals to assist the Transport Directorate with the high-level business plans for taking over passenger rail in Cape Town. Taking over this function from the National Government will not happen overnight, but will be done in phases and over time.

A tender for the procurement of professional services to assist the City with the assignment of the urban rail function was recently advertised. The City has received four tenders by the closing date for submissions on 28 February 2019, and we have now entered the evaluation and assessment phase.

The team of rail professionals, once appointed, will be tasked to develop a feasible and incremental plan for the City in taking over the urban rail function from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), a state-owned entity that reports to the National Department of Transport.

The City Council on 26 October 2017 approved the Business Plan for the assignment of the urban rail function to the City of Cape Town. The approved Business Plan proposes that the City takes over passenger rail in a structured and incremental manner as this will allow the City to plan ahead, to acquire the necessary skills, and to develop the additional capacity needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the service.

‘The assignment of the urban rail service will have long-term implications for residents and commuters. It will affect our long-term spatial planning and our local economy. It will, importantly, also have an impact on Prasa, being the rail operator, its divisions and personnel, and its service providers. Thus, whatever we do must be done with the utmost care and diligence, and must adhere to the highest professional standards,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Alderman Felicity Purchase.

The multi-disciplinary team to be appointed will have specialist skills and experience in railway operations and engineering, as well as business re-engineering and development, track and structures, rolling stock, signalling, concessions, electrical systems and stations.

‘We’ve stipulated in the tender that the preferred service provider will have to acquire the skills of professionals who have decades’ experience in the urban rail environment. The team must consist of a project leader, financial specialist or transport economist, legal specialist, and experts in railway asset management and urban rail network operations, rail signalling and systems, and railway safety and security. Collectively, the team must have many decades of experience among them. We want the best of the best to assist us with this very important task,’ said Alderman Purchase.

Once appointed, the multi-disciplinary team will assist the City with the investigation into the feasibility of the assignment of the urban rail function to the City, and on the basis of this study, provide a detailed plan for an incremental and sustainable devolution of the urban rail functions.

First, the specialists will evaluate and set out the options for assignment – thus, whether the rail function should be assigned to the City in part, or in whole. This initial phase will establish options for the City’s business model, the financial and other risks, and the resource acquisition, inclusive of the personnel and other assets. The initial phase will be subject to review and approval by Council. Once approved by Council, this will be followed up with a detailed business plan for the assignment.

‘The assignment must be feasible, and will be divided into phases. Before each phase the decision makers will have to evaluate the impact and consequences, needs and other key considerations before the City will commit to any functions. We’re determined to restore commuters’ faith in passenger rail as it should be the backbone of public transport in Cape Town. However, we need to do this in a responsible manner by being fully aware of the financial risks involved and by ensuring we’re not taking over any unfunded mandates,’ said Alderman Purchase.

The City will make an announcement about the awarding of the tender once the supply chain management process has been concluded, and if we are satisfied that there is a preferred service provider who will be able to meet the criteria – or scope of work – as set out in the tender document.