The current state of affairs within South Africa’s transport sector, specifically the rail sector, has been informed by a variety of legislative and policy documents with various rail initiatives. These have been launched over the years by different stakeholders, often leading to uncoordinated objectives in the utilisation of rail infrastructure. As a result, the rail sector has existed in the absence of an over-arching rail policy.
South Africa is currently undergoing a regulatory ‘restructuring’ evidenced by the various policies and draft Bills which have been or are in the process of being promulgated.
Historically, road and rail based passenger services in South Africa were provided by the South African Transport Services (SATS), a state-owned entity. SATS was empowered to, among others control, manage, maintain and exploit certain transport services throughout South Africa, including rail. The Legal Succession to the South African Transport Services Act, No 9 of 1989 (Legal Succession Act) replaced the SATS dispensation.
As from April 1990 onwards, these functions became the responsibility of Transnet Limited and the South African Rail Commuter Corporation Limited (subsequently PRASA) with the former responsible for long-distance freight rail services and the latter taking care of commuter rail services. The overall effect is that rail components were transferred from SATS to different government entities and the rail sector has existed in the absence of a unified rail policy. This has ultimately led to the need to coordinate the rail policy framework in South Africa.
Recent Developments in Transport Policy and Regulation
The first significant policy promulgated for purposes of regulating the transport industry was the White Paper on National Transport Policy 1996 (White Paper). The White Paper, among other things, emphasises the importance of the rail sector for both freight and passenger transport. It focuses on the customer as the priority for public transport policy development and stipulates that issues of rail safety, affordability, quality and the provision of improved service levels should feature prominently in the policy formulation process. The White Paper is a key transport policy document in South Africa and provides guidance for all transport legislation and planning.
A further legislative development and recent means of restructuring the transport sector has been the introduction of the proposed Single Transport Economic Regulation Bill 2015 (STER Bill). The STER Bill seeks to, among others, consolidate the economic regulation of the transport sector within a single framework and policy through establishing the Single Transport Economic Regulator (STER) and the Transport Economic Council. It is envisaged that the STER’s functions will be executed independently of all operators and service providers in the transport sector. The STER will be directly accountable to the Minister of Transport, to whom it will be obliged to provide reports periodically on the status and performance of, among others, the railway sector.
The decision to establish a STER will integrate economic regulation for the rail, road, maritime and aviation sectors. Currently, at the time of drafting this alert, the Bill is in its final consultation phase with internal stakeholders, thereafter it will be published for public comment.
Various other strategies and policy documents have also been implemented with the aim of guiding the development of the transport sector (such as the National Freight Logistics Strategy, Moving South Africa, the National Rail Plan, the National Land Transport Strategic Framework and the Public Transport Strategy). Although, until recently, there existed no clear consolidated directive that examines how rail specifically will be regulated and taken forward in South Africa.
Developments in Policy and Regulation of Rail
From a policy perspective, while aspects relating to the regulation of the rail sector were captured in the White Paper, the Green Paper on National Rail Policy has been published on 22 September 2015 (Green Paper) for the rail sector. The Green Paper’s principal aim is to revitalise the rail industry and focus on how to make rail networks in South Africa fit for future generations, recognising the importance of sustainability and innovation. One of the salient features of the Green Paper is the proposal of various policy recommendations designed to address the key challenges faced by the rail industry.
In order to achieve a revitalisation of the rail industry and to re-position the rail sector as a preferred means of land transport, the Green Paper acknowledges that the current rail challenges have to first be resolved. The Green Paper highlights the global repositioning and ‘renaissance’ of railways in other countries, the lessons that can be learned as well as highlighting the current rail challenges for South Africa. The Green Paper therefore highlights the National Rail Policy’s (envisaged by the Green Paper) fundamentals and policy positions. Importantly, the recommended policy position on regulation recognises that multiple stakeholders pursuing different interests in the rail industry will require economic regulation to ensure the fairness and long-term sustainability of the rail sector. As such, a Ministerial Task Team was established to develop economic regulatory capacity for the rail sector.
Data will be collected from rail operators and analysed over the next two years to determine what economic regulatory interventions will be required for the rail sector. The forthcoming STER will, as a permanent initiative, regulate the rail sector specifically as a subdivision of regulating all transport types. Importantly, the Green Paper states that the Railway Safety Regulator and the STER will work closely together through a memorandum of understanding as their responsibilities will be separate.
Lastly, the Green Paper alludes to the way forward for the South Africa rail sector and proceeds to outline the recommended policy positions to be discussed and debated during the Green and White paper consultation phases. Subsequent to such stakeholder consultation, the White Paper will be submitted for approval and the Department of Transport will commence with developing the National Rail Act, thereby making some of the policy positions legally binding on the rail sector.
The South African government is currently moving towards major rail recapitalisation and is simultaneously undergoing a policy and regulatory development process. The introduction of the Green Paper could potentially lead to the fomalisation of the government’s position on policy and will provide and overarching governance framework for the rail sector. The successful implementation of the National Rail Policy is crucial to ensuring the revitalisation and resurgence of the South African railway sector.
I VISITED SA this week to heighten our economic partnership and further strengthen our already rich relationship.
SA is a key player in Africa’s economy, a model for democracy and a major emerging power. We are aware of it, and this is why the rainbow nation is our first economic partner in sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 300 French companies, employing close to 30,000 people, are based here.
Some great successes, such as the Alstom contract with the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, which will create more than 30,000 new jobs, illustrate the dynamics for the greater benefit of our two nations.
France is also represented by its expatriate community. More than 9,000 people strong, it is incredibly dynamic and provides a connection between our two nations.
In various sectors, France can support SA and help it address its development challenges.
The transport sector, one of France’s sectors of excellence, is paramount to South African ambitions regarding urbanisation and sustainable development. There are huge opportunities to strengthen our partnership in that respect.
Energy represents a crucial challenge for the South African economy. France has extensive expertise in this field, especially regarding renewable energies, and French companies are already involved in the South African programme.
The same applies to the nuclear sector, with the Koeberg power plant built by France.
Agribusiness is a vital sector for both our countries. Our markets must remain mutually attractive and regulations must be relaxed.
Since we can still learn from each other, continuing education is a key factor of our co-operation.
The future creation of a bilateral higher agricultural training institution, F’SAGRI, is an outstanding example of this common will.
Obviously, this co-operation must take place in accordance with South African rules.
Our companies are very committed to the training and broad-based black economic empowerment requirements defended by South African authorities.
Otherwise, our relationship would have no meaning.
But we can still do better and increase our co-operation. It is also the goal of my visit.
France is the world’s sixth-largest economy and represents a dynamic market of close to 70-million consumers. Yet, few South African companies have decided to set up business in France. We must welcome South Africans better.
When we speak of France, we always think of tourism. As the first world’s destination, and second European destination for South Africans, France and especially Reunion Island, so close to SA, are yours to visit. Come and discover it.
Likewise, France is only the fourth European supplier to SA, even though your country is experiencing full economic expansion.
We must do more. During my visit, I participated, with (Trade and Industry) Minister Rob Davies, in a meeting during which French and South African companies shared their commitment and paid tribute to their partnerships.
It is our joint responsibility to continue coming together.
My trip allowed me to reiterate France’s ambitious objectives about climate change in the context of the Conference of the Parties-21, taking place in Paris in December.
Our motivation can only be compared with that of SA, and together we shall join forces to mobilise the international community and obtain an ambitious agreement.
It is my hope that this profitable dialogue between our two countries will strengthen our relationship. Indeed, my coming to SA must be seen as a step, a link in the chain that unites two friendly nations.
Let us work together to consolidate this connection.
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By Eric Mutei
At the end of a long day at work, the only thing you want to do is get home quickly. You’re exhausted from dealing with your boss, terrible colleagues or crazy clients. But traveling home is just another drawn out nightmare to endure, thanks to the woes of the transport sector. The only reliable and affordable means of transportation for a common city dweller in Addis Ababa is the state operated city buses. Apart from the long stretchy queues, these buses are overcrowded and groaning heavily under the weight of the city residents. Not to mention the endless traffic jams. This is the daily transit scenario in the streets of Addis Ababa.
The scene above was the common case of daily transit until the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) project launched in December 2011. The rail is a first in clean initiative in the horn of Africa to enhance public mobility. The light railway of Ethiopia is the first urban metro light rail scheme to be built in a sub-Saharan country outside of South Africa.
The Ethiopian Railways Corp. (ERC) began construction of the double track electrified light rail transit project in 2012. It stretches 23 kilometers covering the better part of the city, and is a welcome relief for the city residents. The light railway consists of two lines running for a total distance of 32km with underground and over ground sections, 39 stations, and two operators that are the Ethiopian Railways Corporation and Shenzhen Metro. The 41 three-section 70% low-floor light rail vehicles are designed to run in pairs at up to 70 km/h. All have tinted windows and rubber components specified to resist premature aging from the effects of strong sunlight at altitudes of 2400 m.
ERC intends to register the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit project as a Clean Development Mechanism project. The rail project is one of the pillars of a green growth strategy in the transport chapter of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), to consolidate greenhouse gas emissions of the country at 2010 levels. The vision of this rail project was to see a modern railway infrastructure and service by an efficient railway company that supports Ethiopia’s endeavor in building a globally competitive economy that uses electricity and connects the country’s development centers and links with ports of neighboring countries.
The Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy (PDF) lays down a plan for Ethiopia to develop a carbon neutral, green economy by 2025. According to the CRGE strategy report, under the BAU scenario, emissions from the transport sector will increase from 5 Mt CO2e in 2010 to 41 Mt CO2e in 2030. The development and implementation of a National Railway Network and the Light Rail Transit and supported projects (Transit Oriented Development) will result in significant GHG emission reductions of 9 Mt CO2e/year by 2030.
Building electrified railways lays the base for low carbon transport in Ethiopia and will assure clean transport tomorrow. Railroads can contribute towards severing Ethiopia’s economic growth from diesel fuelled trucks. Availability of reliable and clean transport is a precondition for Ethiopia’s development. Trains can make use of a domestic energy source, hydropower, and help fuel the economy in a green way. The clean character of the fuel without emission of greenhouse gasses and the durable economic structure without dependency on imported fuels is sustainable.
Years ago the air was cleaner, but with the drastic growth in population, more than 4 million, the number of 20 year or older vehicles and developmental projects, the air is polluted above the traffic gridlock. The light rail train as cleaner public transist gives a reprieve to the public, combined with the hope for more electric cars, it is expected to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector to less than 9 tonnes by 2030. It is an environmentally friendly venture aimed at combating the ever growing pollution in the city. It is not only convenient, providing transport for over 15,000 people per one direction and 60,000 in all four directions, but affordable for the residents. It is a milestone in helping Ethiopia sustain its growing economy, as Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Light Rail Train has brought glimmers of hope to the common man. At the very least, one can get home easily at the end of the day without the crazy hassle of looking for and struggling in transit. The commuting city residents can breathe easier using clean transit as they take part in building their nation.
Book your seat here.
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