PRASA refuses to sign service level agreement for passenger rail – GHL

Mayor says City will now follow Intergovernmental Dispute Resolution processes

PRASA refuses to sign service level agreement for Cape passenger rail

3 August 2023

‘PRASA has let commuters down by refusing to make a commitment to the City about the quality and level of passenger rail services they will deliver, and to be held accountable to those commitments. It is vital that PRASA’s service delivery is measurable, with clear, agreed targets for improvement as we work towards our ultimate goal of the devolution of passenger rail to the City.

‘A formal Service Level Agreement is a legal requirement under section 11(1)(c) of the National Land Transport Act, and the City has repeatedly requested PRASA to comply with its obligation to conclude this agreement with us. Ultimately, this agreement will also form the foundation for the long-awaited devolution of rail to the metro, and all the benefits this will bring for Cape Town residents in desperate need of an affordable, safe, and reliable rail service.

‘But PRASA has informed us - in late July - that they will not sign and commit to a binding service level agreement at this stage given the current state of rail services. This is neither acceptable nor lawful, and the City now has no choice but to proceed with formal dispute resolution processes,’ said Mayor Hill-Lewis.

The City’s ongoing Rail Feasibility Study, which aims to chart the way to devolution, has so far found that lower income households will save up to R932 million per year with an efficient passenger rail service in Cape Town. The research also shows that functional rail will sustain over 51 000 jobs and add R11 billion to the local economy each year.

Councillor Rob Quintas, Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Mobility, said City officials have held extensive engagements with PRASA.

‘We are disappointed about PRASA’s about-turn after their initial willingness to discuss a service level agreement. Given the sorry state of passenger rail, it seems PRASA’s rationale is that they are not in a position to commit to even basic performance criteria at this stage.

‘Instead, PRASA is proposing a non-consequential Memorandum of Understanding be developed which would not legally bind them to specified service levels. This is not acceptable, as the standing Memorandum signed in 2015, has not had the desired accountability effect on PRASA and the National Government,’ said Cllr Quintas.

Mayor Hill-Lewis recently welcomed the commitment by the National Transport Department’s Director General to the gazetting of a Devolution Strategy within 2023 for capable metros to run passenger rail. In prepared remarks to the Africa Rail Conference in Johannesburg, Advocate James Mlawua said the devolution strategy ‘would be a key feature’ of the National Land Transport Strategic Framework ‘which will be gazetted during the course of this year’.

In a 12 June letter, Mayor Hill-Lewis invited President Cyril Ramaphosa to form a joint working committee with the City for the urgent devolution of passenger rail, which the Presidency had publicly committed to responding to, but has not done so yet.

In May 2022, Cabinet passed the White Paper on National Rail Policy which commits to devolving rail to capable metros, and to producing a Rail Devolution Strategy in 2023. Up until the latest devolution progress confirmation by the Transport DG, Cabinet’s White Paper commitments have been contradicted by various senior political figures, including the current and former Transport Ministers.

Mayor Hill-Lewis said the City is keenly awaiting a devolution commitment directly from the President given the dire need for a functional rail system in Cape Town.

Issued by Media Office, City of Cape Town, 3 August 2023