Cape Town: Leading the Way in Rail Devolution Strategy for 2023

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Cape Town, the bustling city on South Africa’s southwest coast, is gaining recognition not just for its natural beauty and vibrant culture but also for its leadership in championing a Rail Devolution Strategy. The ambitious plan, set to be implemented by 2023, aims to enhance the city’s transportation system and improve the quality of life for its residents.

A National Strategy

Advocate James Mlawua, the National Transport Department’s Director General, has committed to the Rail Devolution Strategy, earning praise from Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. Mlawua emphasized at the Africa Rail Conference in Johannesburg that the Devolution Strategy would be an essential aspect of the National Land Transport Strategic Framework, to be gazetted later this year.

Accelerating the Devolution Process

Mayor Hill-Lewis, a strong proponent of rail devolution, previously invited President Cyril Ramaphosa to form a joint working committee with the City of Cape Town. This move aimed to expedite the devolution process, in line with the Presidency’s commitment to respond publicly to the issue.

Urgent Need for a Functional Rail System

Mayor Hill-Lewis’s proactive stance stems from the pressing need for an affordable, safe, and dependable rail service in the city. The Rail Feasibility Study conducted by the city shows that lower-income households can save up to R932 million annually with the establishment of an effective passenger rail service in Cape Town. A functional rail system can also create over 51,000 jobs and contribute R11 billion to the local economy annually.

Political Controversy

Although the Cabinet approved the White Paper on National Rail Policy in May 2022, which endorses the devolution of rail services to capable metros, the issue has been a subject of contention among various political actors. Some senior political figures have contradicted the commitment, including Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, who informed the media in May that there were no current plans to devolve rail services to the City. Moreover, Chikunga has yet to respond to Mayor Hill-Lewis’s letter seeking the establishment of a joint working committee on devolution.

Overcoming Obstacles

Despite the mixed messages from the political sphere, Mayor Hill-Lewis is determined to ensure that the city can efficiently take over passenger rail services. She is eager to provide input to the national government’s forthcoming rail devolution strategy and hopes that Cape Town will serve as a successful example of rail devolution for other metropolitan areas across the nation.

As 2023 approaches, Cape Town’s residents and leaders alike hope that the city will set a precedent for rail devolution and unlock the vast potential that a functional rail system holds. With political will and a collaborative approach, the dream of an efficient, prosperous, and well-connected Cape Town may soon become a reality.

A Russian-Spanish journalist and Cape Town native, channels his lifelong passion for South Africa into captivating stories for his local blog. With a diverse background and 50 years of rich experiences, Serjio's unique voice resonates with readers seeking to explore Cape Town's vibrant culture. His love for the city shines through in every piece, making Serjio the go-to source for the latest in South African adventures.

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