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How much theft and vandalism have cost South Africa’s passenger trains

In a parliamentary Q&A, transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga revealed that over the last five years, theft and vandalism of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) assets and infrastructure have cost the agency in excess of R7.64 billion.

Of this amount, R2,049,947,000 was attributed to “assets written off due to theft and vandalism” and the remaining R5,590,966,000 to “assets impaired due to theft and vandalism,” said the minister.

Despite the enormous losses suffered from these criminal acts, the agency’s total asset values simultaneously crept up since 2019.

Prasa’s total asset values over the last five years, as provided by Minister Chikunga, are as follows:

  • 2019 – R75,883,857,000
  • 2020 – R80,904,701,000
  • 2021 – R76,985,291,000
  • 2022 – R81,761,207,000
  • 2023 – R81,138,987,000

The minister did not clarify whether these asset values increased as a result of rail recoveries or other factors such as property valuations.

Prasa recovery

As of the end of March, Prasa has brought 31 of its 40 passenger-train corridors in South Africa back into partial operation, up from 18 corridors in August 2023.

Its latest leg of completed upgrades saw the restoration of five crucial Metrorail services comprising three in Gauteng, one in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and one in the Western Cape.

Further recoveries to take place in the future include an extension of the Cape Town-to-Stellenbosch line to Muldersvlei in the Western Cape; and the extension of the Merebank-to-Chatsglen line to Crossmore in KZN.

Furthermore, significant progress is being made on the Central Line in the Western Cape, with ongoing efforts to rehabilitate rail infrastructure from Phillippi to Nolungile and onwards to Chris Hani.

As many as 5,195 households have erected illegal dwellings on Prasa’s Central Line in the coastal province, with plans now in place to relocate many of them to the Macassar area, as reported by IOL.

To enable the resumption of critical recovery work, Prasa has already relocated 891 households from the Phillippi station area, the agency confirmed.

It is also working on repairing vandalised signalling equipment and other dilapidated rail infrastructure plaguing its corridors in an effort to ensure safer operation and increased frequency of services.

In the Western Cape, Prasa has rehabilitated six bridges to the value of R59 million since 2022, in addition to four underground tunnels that were declared non-functional and unsafe at a cost of R75,000 per tunnel.

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