Any suggestion that the minister of finance has given a green light for commuter rail takeover by the City of Cape Town is inaccurate, says Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
- On Thursday Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that the city has kicked off the first step towards taking over rail management in the metro.
- He said a letter from Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana supports such a step.
- In reaction Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula issued a late-night statement to point out, he, and not Godongwana, is the one empowered to eventually authorise a takeover.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has cautioned that the City of Cape Town’s plans to take over the management of rail services in the metro is by no means a done deal yet because his approval is needed first, and not that of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Mbalula was reacting to Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis’ comments in council on Thursday. Hill-Lewis said Godongwana supports a feasibility study on the matter. The city has therefore issued a tender in this regard as the first step in a quest to take over the management of the rail network from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
In a late-night statement, Mbalula says he supports Godongwana’s “sentiment” that the city must conduct a feasibility study to determine if it has the capacity to manage the rail system. At the same time Mbalula tried to make it clear that he, as minister of transport, and not Godongwana, is the one empowered by law to assign any public transport function to a municipality.
“Any suggestion that the minister of finance has given a green light for commuter rail takeover by the City of Cape Town is inaccurate. Only the minister of transport can assign a public transport function to another sphere of government…The implementation process will, therefore, be subject to policy and legal imperatives,” said Mbalula.
Hill-Lewis, in turn, reacted to Mbalula’s statement with a tweet saying it makes him “even more excited” because it seems to indicate support by the minister of transport for the feasibility study.
The mayor’s office confirmed on Friday morning that the city is still continuing with its tender for the feasibility study
90% of this is exactly what I announced today, written in such a way so as to seem that it isn’t.
In a way, this makes me even more excited! We can do this.
Let’s make the trains work. https://t.co/L3oAirHJvV
— Geordin Hill-Lewis (@geordinhl) April 28, 2022
In his council speech, Hill-Lewis described the rail service in Cape Town as reaching a crisis point, with just 33 operational train sets in 2020 compared to 95 trains sets in 1995.
In February, Prasa reported to the Western Cape legislature that in June 2019, it was operating 444 train trips on a typical weekday in Cape Town. Early in 2020 – just before the Covid-19 pandemic started – this had dropped to 270 daily trips.
This year, there are no more than 153 train trips across the city on a typical weekday.
Mbalula indicated that, in the coming week, he will publicly release the White Paper on National Rail Policy which also deals with the devolution of the rail function to cities like Cape Town rail, and he will address the current matter in detail at the launch.
The White Paper was recently approved by Cabinet and acknowledges the importance of “devolving public transport functions to the lowest level of government”, according to Mbalula. To this end, the policy requires the development and approval of a Devolution Strategy for Commuter Rail to guide the assignment of the commuter rail function at municipal level.
The National Land Transport Act (NLTA) empowers the minister of transport to assign a function to a municipality, provided that the municipality has adequate capacity to undertake that function. The rail function is one such function.
Treasury was approached for comment on Thursday.
Source by www.news24.com