Passenger rail remains the backbone of land-based public transport networks across the world. Unfortunately, the passenger rail service across South Africa, and particularly the Western Cape, has been in a state of crisis characterised by declining performance capacity, punctuality, safety, and an increase in cancellations and overcrowding. In the Western Cape, these issues have been exacerbated by crippling arson attacks, theft, and vandalism.

The adverse consequence of this situation has been a mass passenger exodus from rail transport to road-based transport which has placed significant pressure on the road network and has increased congestion.

In response to this growing and urgent rail crisis, the Western Cape Government has published the Draft Western Cape Rail Transport Bill (2019) for public comment.

The draft bill seeks to improve rail safety and rail service standards in the Western Cape and makes proposals on how this can be achieved.

Given that the rail system in Cape Town is operated by the national government, under the auspices of PRASA, the bill will seek to increase the Western Cape Government’s ability to regulate, oversee and monitor the passenger rail service in the province. This is possible under responsibilities granted to the Provincial Minister of Transport and Public Works by the Constitution and National Land Transport Act (NLTA, Act 5 of 2009).

Bill objectives

In summary, the Draft Western Cape Rail Transport Bill (2009) seeks to:

  • Provide for cooperative rail management between relevant organs of state through the establishment of a rail committee and the inclusion of cooperation agreements
  • Establish a rail unit with a rail inspectorate to perform monitoring and oversight of rail systems and safety
  • Establish and maintain an information system
  • Regulate the preparation and content of the commuter rail component of municipalities’ integrated transport plans
  • Regulate the process of addressing non-compliance by rail operators with national operational and service delivery norms and standards and provincial norms and standards.

The Draft Bill is now open for public comment until 15 May 2019, and can be viewed here.

Doris Cassiem
Tel: 021 483 5058


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