It is time to talk about rail, sector body tells Ramaphosa
It is time to get all stakeholders around the table, to get our rail industry to drive our economy forward, Mesela Nhlapo, CEO of African Rail Industry Association (ARIA), has written in a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In his presentation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) in October last year, Ramaphosa said that rail lay at the heart of reviving South Africa’s economy. Now the ARIA is pushing for this to become a reality.
“Your introduction of third-party access to the country’s railway network is, in our view, the most significant policy development in years,” Nhlapo wrote.
Nhlapo says rail is the backbone of the South African logistics and transport value chain and will become even more critical in a post-Covid environment, as it is cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than road transport and lends itself to carrying cargo in a sanitised, minimal-contact environment.
“The case for rail, we believe, is clear and compelling. Rail remains the most viable option for the transportation of grain, automotive components and fully built car units and minerals. It will reduce congestion on our roads and free them up to carry commuter traffic and sensitive cargo like perishables and cold storage items,” she penned.
Nhlapo points out that rail infrastructure has been a neglected area of infrastructure investment for decades, lagging behind areas such as energy, which has seen the construction of new power stations, while having to compete with other infrastructure sectors for investment.
She says the continent is looking to South Africa for leadership.
“At the African Union’s 24th ordinary session in Addis Ababa in 2015, South Africa was identified as a manufacturing hub for railway and rolling stock equipment. The formation and operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement [AfCFTA] will require the support of a vibrant rail sector to be fully realised. It is time for us to lead.”
ARIA calls on the president to restart an overdue conversation about railway infrastructure. The association represents a range of rail industry stakeholders, including original equipment manufacturers, rail component manufacturers, operators and services companies.
Nhlapo suggests creating as formal structure, a Rail Advisory Committee (RAC), to facilitate the conversation to bring together the rail industry, government, development and the private finance community, as well as labour and the skills development and training fraternity.
“The RAC would support government’s efforts in areas to shape policy and legislation to guide the evolution of rail operations and safety standards. It would address legacy issues affecting the size and structure of the rail industry in South Africa, and obstacles to the growth of the industry.
“It would boost Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s [Prasa] ability to drive economic growth and transformation. It would assist in ensuring that freight’s third-party access to Transnet’s network, a key element of your economic reconstruction, becomes a reality.”
Courtesy of The Citizen – full article here