Prasa commits to paying R16m for special Rail Enforcement Unit

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) says it is fully committed to its part in the establishment of a special Rail Enforcement Unit, pledging to pay its R16m contribution towards the deployment of an additional 100 officers.

The rail agency's contribution, which it reaffirmed at a meeting on Wednesday, is part of a joint venture between it, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, for a pilot project in terms of which the unit is to be set up.

Its announcement comes after Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron blasted the rail agency for failing to pay its R16m contribution.

"Prasa is committed to working with all the parties involved in the proposed pilot project. The matter regarding the outstanding payment of the Prasa contribution to the pilot project will now be escalated to the Prasa board," acting CEO Martha Ngoye said.

"This pilot project is not the only initiative but part of a range of initiatives, of which some are already being implemented to secure our assets and more importantly improve the safety and security of commuters and staff."

'We are pleased' 

In May 2018, all three parties signed a memorandum of agreement, agreeing to the establishment of the unit. However, Herron claimed that despite numerous reminders to Prasa executives, the contribution was never paid.

"The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government have already made available their R16m contribution towards the total R47.9m that it would take to establish and operate the new unit for a 12-month period," Herron said in a joint statement with Prasa.

"We are pleased that the training process of more than 70 security officers has already taken place, utilising funding already made available, with the training of a further 30 officers set to commence shortly."

Transport MEC Donald Grant confirmed that the issues plaguing the passenger rail system would be placed at the forefront of the agenda at the upcoming transport imbizo with national Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande.

On Saturday, Herron wrote an urgent letter to Nzimande requesting him to declare a state emergency over the state of the railway system, after an attack between Lynedoch and Eerste River the previous day.

READ: Condolences and shock after Stellenbosch train attack

It is alleged that a group of men robbed nine commuters at gunpoint and a 35-year-old was thrown from the moving train, resulting in death.

Civil society coalition #UniteBehind pointed out, in an open letter to the minister, that Herron and Grant did not require Nzimande's permission to declare a state of emergency or disaster.

"The Prasa board must provide a commuter-centre safety plan that focuses on vulnerable groups such as women, children, [the] disabled and the elderly," the letter said.

"Minister Nzimande, there is much to be done. Most of them can be achieved through declaring commuter rail a national disaster as set out in our last letter to you."

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