Speech on Second Reading debate - Railway Safety Bill [B 7B – 2021]
Speech by ACDP MP, Steve Swart

Issued by the ACDP Parliamentary Media Office

Transnet’s crisis presents a great challenge to South Africa’s economy

Oct 24, 2023

“House Chairperson,

The amendments to the Railway Safety Bill aim to enhance the regulatory framework governing railway safety in South Africa and repeals the National Railway Safety Regulator Act, 2002.

The Railway Safety Regulator, as the name suggests, oversees railway safety and conducts audits and inspections and investigates accidents and incidents related to the railways.

The Annual State of Safety Report (ASoSR) unveils a disconcerting reality: a huge amount — 97%  — of security-related incidents are due to theft and vandalism, painting a grim scenario of a situation which appears to be spiraling out of control. 

The recent taxi strikes in the Western Cape in early August highlight the potential of trains as a viable alternative source of transport for commuters. However, myriad issues such as malfunctioning signaling equipment, compromised infrastructure security, and damaged telecommunication cables have crippled its effectiveness.

Recognising this, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) is doing its very best to address these challenges and this bill will go a long way, in our view, to enhance railway safety to improve governance and other issues as set out in the bill.

The amendments must be also, however, seen against the severe challenges faced by other users of our railways such as Transnet.

The ACDP is deeply concerned at the continuing deterioration of Transnet’s infrastructure and performance which we know threatens the entire economy.

Now, we had a discussion about Eskom [earlier this afternoon], but the challenges at Transnet may eclipse that of Eskom, given that the economy is heavily reliant on efficient logistics, as 68% of the country’s GDP comes from imports and exports.

It is conservatively estimated that the country is losing a staggering R1bn a day from Transnet’s collapse. Now, it’s interesting — the Minister of Electricity referred to a billion Rand a day being lost through Eskom; Transnet is almost at the same level, and this does not include lost potential investment from local and international companies. International companies do not want to invest if they know there is risk that they will be unable to export their products or transport it to the end consumer.

Transnet’s collapse also results in additional strain being placed on the country’s road infrastructure, (and the ACDP fully supports the road-to-rail projects), but mining companies and fruit exporters are turning to trucking to transport goods.

It is critical then that the crisis at Transnet is solved without delay as it presents a great challenge to the country’s economy.

The ACDP will support this bill as it goes a long way to improve railway safety.

I thank you.”

-ENDS-

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