The trains affectionately known as “The People’s Train” manufactured at the Gibela Factory in Pretoria, were part of Prasa’s modernisation programme to be implemented over the next 20 years.
The programme aims to revitalise the rail industry through local manufacturing, maintenance and the establishment of training facilities.
One of the new trains rolled out at Cape Town Station was boarded for a ride, went past Salt River and Woodstock stations until Mowbray before heading back. The features of the new train include CCTV cameras, on-board communications between the driver and commuters, emergency communications for disabled passengers and air conditioning, lightweight stainless steel structure and travels at a speed of up to 120km/h.
Gibela Factory’s chief executive, Thierry Darthout, said their company had an obligation to develop the skills of some 19500 people over its 10-year contract with Prasa.
“We are here today to share with the people some of the initiatives that we launched to benefit them.”
Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens said they wanted Ramaphosa to declare the current situation at Prasa, “a state of emergency”.
The union wants the “SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to be deployed to safeguard platforms and the infrastructure of Prasa that is under siege by criminals and furious mobs of commuters due to Prasa’s daily inability to provide a safe and reliable passenger rail service”.
DA premier candidate Alan Winde said the timing of Ramaphosa’s visit and unveiling of the trains is not surprising and was “a political stunt that is unlikely to make any meaningful difference to alleviate the chronic failings of rail in the Western Cape”.
United Commuters Voice spokesperson Joao Jardim said he was extremely impressed by the train set-up.
Meanwhile, outside the station, the civil society coalition group #UniteBehind blockaded Ramaphosa’s motorcade, saying he must fix the trains.
#UniteBehind head organiser Zukie Vuka said: “Ramaphosa please do not let your ANC election machine use the suffering of commuters as an election ploy.
“We lose our jobs, possessions, lives because of the crisis on our rails.”