City may take over passenger rail

Passenger rail Source: Google Images

The City is seeking out a strong multi-disciplinary team of rail experts to assist the Transport Directorate with developing a plan for taking over the urban rail service in Cape Town from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which is government-owned.

A team of chosen specialists will be tasked with developing a valid and incremental plan for the City’s takeover of the urban rail service from PRASA, a state-owned entity which reports to the National Department of Transport.

A business plan proposal by the City to take over the passenger rail in a “structured and incremental manner” was approved by the City Council in October 2017.

The City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Felicity Purchase, explains what the City is looking for in a team of rail experts:

“We’ve stipulated in the tender that the preferred service provider will have to acquire the skills of professionals who have decades of 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.”

A tender for the procurement of a professional service provider to assist the City in the assignment of the passenger rail service was advertised and four tenders have been received. All tenders submitted will undergo an evaluation and assessment.

Purchase explains the importance of having only “the best” experts working on the urban rail service assignment.

“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.”

In the first stage, the team of experts will evaluate whether the rail agency should be handed over to the City in part or in whole. In the initial phase, the team will have to generate options for the City’s business model, consider financial and other risks and resource acquisition, including personnel and other necessary assets.

This phase will be subject to review by Council and, if approved, will be followed up by a detailed business plan for the assignment.

Purchase says it is important that the rail experts provide a detailed and realistic plan on how to move forward.

“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.”

An official announcement of the awardee of the tender will be made after supply chain management processes have been concluded.