National rail policy to support local industry, manufacturing

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The National Rail Policy White Paper deliberately prioritizes local manufacturing to ensure industrialization and local production of steel, rail lines, rolling stock and supplies, and state and private sector operators should source from South African manufacturers, the transport minister said. Fikile Mbalula said this week.

“The obsolete state of much of our rail infrastructure and rolling stock, and the limitation imposed by narrow gauge tracks, as well as the underutilization of the existing rail network, are some of the biggest challenges. challenges facing the sector,” he said.

The National Rail Policy provides an important opportunity to build and strengthen local manufacturing capacity in South Africa. The localization strategy will be used to develop the industrial base for an active export strategy, especially for exports to other African countries, and will also support the steel master plan, the policy document says.

Local fabrication may include steel of appropriate grades and quantities, railway lines and supplies including railway sleepers, rail joints, fastening systems and switches and hardware and control systems software, as well as rolling stock, including locomotives and engines, wagons and passenger carriages. .

The state will take active steps to help develop local technology, skills and manufacturing capacity to ensure that the production of rail-related products increases gross domestic product, jobs and economic inclusiveness, says the White Paper.

However, rail uses many systems and technologies that set it apart from other modes of transportation and industries. Therefore, skills development should largely rely on sectoral initiatives.

The rail sector employs only 7% of the country’s transport industry workforce and, if investment picks up, such as in commuter trains Gautrain, Transnet and South Africa’s Passenger Rail Agency , has re-established skills development channels, there is still a long way to go in terms of skills development, the guidance document says.

BRANCH LINE RECOVERY
Meanwhile, short-term interventions between now and 2024 will focus on the development of the national railway bill and the master plan for the sector, although the Ministry of Transport will not wait for the finalization of the master plan to implement implementing structural reforms in consultation with stakeholders, Mbalula said.

In addition, short-term interventions will target the recovery of rail corridors by providing branch line concessions and third-party access.

Recognizing the important role that private sector participation can play in bridging the investment gap and improving operational and management capacities, the department has established an implementation protocol to guide the development and implementation of the plan. , which identified strategic branches to recover over time. short to medium term, Mbalula said.

“Agriculture and agricultural exports is a key industry and requires attention to be focused on branch line revitalization to support the sustainability and growth of the industry. Agricultural exports over the past decade have witnessed growth continuous annual volume and [export] revenue for South Africa and is a significant growth industry,” he noted.

The competitiveness of rail will be maximized by investing in infrastructure, restoring capacity and investing in modern technology on the national rail network, as well as rehabilitating suburban metropolitan networks.

Investments in infrastructure will, over time, correct and rebalance significant differences between rail and road asset values ​​and market shares, the White Paper says.

In addition, the National Rail Policy aims to position the rail sector to begin making significant contributions to national climate change commitments by 2050, as rail has the lowest energy consumption in all modes of transport for specific tasks, such as heavy transport and heavy intermodal.

Rail is well positioned to significantly reduce overall energy consumption by increasing its market share and shifting substantial traffic from energy-intensive air and road transport to rail, the guidance document says.

Meanwhile, the department will also establish a task force comprised of representatives from government, regulators, workers, the rail industry and state-owned enterprises to coordinate the critical implementation path, Mbalula said.

In addition, the department is also working with Infrastructure South Africa to ensure that rail projects are part of the focus of the President’s Infrastructure Coordinating Commission and are a component of the wider infrastructure plan, he said. added.

“While improving the railway sector, we aim to do so in a way that also improves the manufacturing industry, parts of which already serve the railway industry, and there is room for further improvement to build capacity in the country”, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said.

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