TRANSPORT minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula, has announced that capital transfers to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will rise to Rand 13.5bn ($US 11.6bn) in 2024-25 from Rand 12.6bn in 2022-23, as the government continues its efforts to restore the country’s heavily vandalised commuter network.

Presenting the transport department’s annual budget to parliament, Mbalula noted that operational transfers to Prasa, parent of commuter operator Metrorail, were expected to increase to Rand 7.8bn from Rand 7.2bn in 2022-23.

The funds will be used to refurbish coaches, and will also go towards Prasa’s fleet renewal programme as well as signalling, security and other capital projects.

The timescales for restoring commuter services on heavily vandalised sections of the network had been extended due to factors beyond Prasa's control, Mbalula added, blaming “protracted procurement processes for infrastructure such as substations” as well as other factors.

Of the 10 priority routes due to see their services restored by December under Prasa’s Corridor Recovery Plan, five had reopened and the Mabopane - Pretoria - Johannesburg - Naledi corridor was a major priority.

“The same can be said of the Cape Town - Langa - Khayelitsha - Kapteinsklip corridor in the western Cape,” Mbalula says.

While some services had resumed on the Mabopane Line, the Central Line remains closed while Prasa works to repair infrastructure and relocate residents who have built illegal dwellings on the track in in Langa and Khayelitsha.

Work to restore train operations on the Central Line is being carried out in two phases, starting with services from Cape Town to Bellville, from Langa to Pinelands and from Langa to Nyanga.

The second phase would see the reopening of the sections from Nyanga to Chris Hani and Nyanga to Kapteinsklip, but ”these segments will take longer to recover due to the extent of the damage on the infrastructure,” Mbalula told parliament.

To replace the Metrorail fleet, the Gibela consortium is continuing with the production of Alstom Xtrapolis EMUs at its factory in Dunnottar, Gauteng, with 95 trains completed out of an order for 600 worth Rand 51bn.

Of these, 68 have been deployed on the network while the remainder are in store at Wolmerton depot pending the completion of repairs to Metrorail infrastructure.