Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES
Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says intervention by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s (Prasa’s) newly established war room has resulted in improved service on the tracks‚ but there is still much work to be done.

Speaking at a media briefing on the war room’s progress in Johannesburg on Monday‚ Mbalula said Prasa’s overall on-time performance (trains arriving and departing on time) has increased by 11% to 63%.

The war room, established in August improve the rail service, was given 30 weeks to implement a turnaround programme. It is now at the halfway mark.

According to a report on its progress‚ 53 focus areas‚ which Prasa refers to as “action items”‚ were identified for intervention. Mbalula said the team has completed work in 28% of these areas.

Prasa has also appointed 62 service providers to help with the recovery of coaches and filled three executive positions to “stabilise the organisation”.

The report says the agency has also received fewer directives from the Rail Safety Regulator. These have declined from 44 to 33. Directives serve as suggestions for railway operators to improve their services and comply with legal requirements.

Mbalula said “occurrences” (incidents on trains or on tracks) have also been reduced by 11%‚ from 809 to 723.

“When we launched the Prasa war room ... we made a firm commitment that this intervention must result in good customer experience for citizens who use Prasa services every day‚” Mbalula said.

“The high levels of customer dissatisfaction and a decline in passenger patronage‚ mostly attributed to safety and high levels of crime and vandalism‚ as well as unpredictable service‚ require serious and urgent attention.

“We are not where we want to be. Many challenges remain‚ which we continue to unlock‚ but I’m encouraged that serious effort is being put toward resolving this.”