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National Rail Policy Under Construction

June 19, 2019

Department of Transport

19 June 2019

The Draft White Paper on the National Rail Policy remains on track.

The transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, referred to the draft white paper during an address at the Africa Rail Conference in Johannesburg.

Last year, the transport department reported that the proposed white paper had been approved by the Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development Cluster for submission to cabinet.

The draft white paper was released for comment in July 2017.

The draft policy focuses on infrastructure investment to strengthen rail’s competitiveness and enabling interventions to adjust institutional arrangements so that rail functions effectively.

The plan is to implement Standard Gauge on the national rail network while maintaining Cape Gauge on the metropolitan commuter networks.

Regulated competition will also be introduced into the freight rail market.

The draft policy also calls for the crafting of a National Rail Act setting out the minimum elements of national rail policy, the department’s duty to consult with provincial and other stakeholders on the national rail policy, sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the policy and urgent issues to be addressed.

Some of the issues covered in the draft white paper include railway origins, existing railway operators, performance challenges, institutional challenges, rails backlog relative to other modes, rail trends, road trends, infrastructure investment, enabling interventions, freight rail, passenger rail and implementation priorities.

According to the minister, the proposed policy lays the “foundation for rail as an affordable, competitive, effective, integrated, reliable, safe and sustainable mode”.

Key policy interventions were highlighted including investing in a new network that can revitalize “extra-urban railways”, restoring rail’s share of the national transport system and seeking private sector participation in rail opportunities.

Other initiatives to enhance the rail system include the establishment of a local passenger train manufacturing plant, enhancing capacity management and equipment maintenance, the procurement of 600 new trains over a 10-year period, improving the signaling programme and the development of safety standards, inspections and investigations by the Railway Safety Regulator.