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White Paper on the National Rail Policy in Place

May 16, 2022

Department of Transport

The White Paper on the National Rail Policy has been released.

The transport department published the White Paper in Government Gazette 46356.

According to the transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, the White Paper “represents a new era and a decisive break with the past, which saw the railways being used as an instrument to segregate society and give credence to a system of racial oppression”.

Cabinet approved the White Paper in March 2022.

In a statement, cabinet described the Policy as designed to create an efficient transport system that will be able to compete locally and internationally.

The Policy also proposes “focused interventions that will promote investments in both the freight and passenger services”.

Other objectives include improving rural access and increasing mobility to promote economic growth and contributing towards the reduction of South Africa’s emissions “as it proposes rail genetic technologies in upgrading the rail stock”.

In the foreword, the minister pointed out that the Policy aims to “place rail on a sound footing to play a meaningful role as a backbone of a seamlessly integrated transport value chain able to make a meaningful contribution to the economy”.

“The key thrusts of this White Paper on National Rail Policy is enabling investment in our railways, with specific attention to the exploitation of rail’s genetic technologies to achieve renaissance in the following market spaces: heavy haul, heavy intermodal, which includes double-stacked containers, contemporary urban and regional rapid transit, as well as higher-speed of 160 to 200km/h and high speed up to 300 km/h”, he added.

The Policy also calls for opening up the rail market to other operators to compete and improve operational efficiency needed to improve service quality and competitive pricing in the freight sector.

As regards passenger rail service, the Policy calls for concessioning on lines where the private sector can operate services.

“This will result in the introduction of an alternative provision of commuter rail in the Republic, thereby providing much needed mobility, addressing funding constraints and enhancing competitiveness of our commuter rail system”.

The White Paper presents a “multi-decade vision of how South Africa’s railway sector should evolve over time, which will provide Policy certainty and enable investment and private sector participation in the sector”.