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Everyone in Cape Town should be able to arrive at any of the city’s 118 train stations between 5am and 10pm, catch a train within 15 minutes, and get home quickly and safely. 

The National Rail Policy White Paper, gazetted in May, makes important strides towards making this vision a reality through its acknowledgement that all over the world local governments tend to be better managers of rail services.

If implemented carefully and with a people-centric approach rather than a politician-centric one, this will be a progressive policy with the power to fundamentally change the country’s track as regards inclusionary and economy-powering transport.

I have written to transport minister Fikile Mbalula this week asking him to join the city in setting up a working committee comprising officials from the department of transport, the city and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA. This committee would begin the ground-breaking and detailed work of rail devolution hand-in-hand with the department. It would also enable our two governments to work together to improve rail services in Cape Town, even before devolution occurs.

The devolution of a state function is not a “loss” for one sphere of government and a “win” for another, even when different political parties are involved. If urban rail in Cape Town succeeds, it’s a victory for every sphere of government and for every South African. The benefits resulting from a reliable, safe and affordable rail network in Cape Town will have social, economic and fiscal pay-offs that will have myriad positive repercussions at a national level.

I hope the minister will join me in getting Cape Town rail on the right track — our commuters and businesses cannot afford to wait any longer.

Geordin Hill-Lewis
Cape Town mayor

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