Rail employees have been staging strikes for months to demand a pay rise

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) announced that 31 out of 40 rail routes are now operational after extensive theft and vandalism severely damaged the country's rail network during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) Hishaam Emeran.

Speaking at the Africa Rail 2024 Conference in Sandton on Thursday, Emeran highlighted that PRASA has restored nearly 80% of passenger rail routes.

"The resuscitation of the 31 corridors translates into the steady return of rail passengers. We are not where we need to be yet, but we are seeing significant progress," he said, SA News reported. "A year back, we had 15 million passengers and by the end of March this year, we reached 40 million passengers. That's nearly a 200% increase."

The agency has so far invested more than R12 billion in capital projects and created around 4,500 jobs for South Africans. In the past 24 months, PRASA has achieved major milestones, marking a noticeable turnaround in South Africa's railway sector.

Emeran attributed these improvements to the agency's effective implementation of its capital program.

"Over the last two years, PRASA has made a significant injection into the economy of our country. It has invested more than R30 billion over the last two years in projects, rolling stock manufacturing and other organization elements within the rail space," Emeran said.

He added, "That is a direct injection into the economy, which does not even take into account the knock-on effect of our investment. The modernization of the rail system is reaping rewards. It is creating jobs and revitalizing an essential commuter artery."

Emeran explained that the PRASA ensures that 65% of the parts used in the production of its trains at the Gibela factory are locally manufactured including young engineers, technicians, and welders in South Africa.

With 600 trains planned for production at Gibela, PRASA aims to position South Africa as a leading hub for train manufacturing across Africa. Emeran highlighted that PRASA along with Transnet and Gibela is driving these rail opportunities as part of South Africa's broader economic recovery efforts.