A well-established rail network is of strategic importance to a country and provides a cost- effective and efficient means of increasing its transportation capabilities. As such, ensuring the condition of the rail network should be of high importance and priority to the public.This paper evaluates the current state of the public freight and passenger rail networks in South Africa. An evaluation of the freight rail network examines the current condition of the heavy haul freight lines, general freight lines and branch lines, while an evaluation of the passenger rail network examines the current condition of PRASA passenger lines as well as the relatively recent Gautrain passenger lines. The evaluation is based on the state of primary rail infrastructure components (i.e. formation, railway structures, signalling, telecommunications, perway and electrical systems) as well as key contributing factors to the current rail infrastructure condition such as theft and vandalism of railway assets, number of train derailments, collisions and fires. Furthermore, a national and provincial survey grading system of the current condition of rail infrastructure is assessed. Primary findings of the assessment indicate a significant and increasing maintenance backlog of track infrastructure along the general freight and branch line network and more especially on PRASA’s passenger rail network. In addition an increasing trend of theft and vandalism, and an underinvestment of resources required to maintain the condition of certain network sectors have been identified. This has left the overall condition of the majority of networks in a poor state. This paper will contribute towards current efforts in alerting government and the public at large of the current state of the rail infrastructure in South Africa and the necessity of well-maintained infrastructure to allow the continued and sustainable operation of the railway network.
Papers Presented at the 2018 37th Southern African Transport Conference 9-12 July 2018 Pretoria, South Africa. Theme "Towards a desired transport future: safe, sufficient and affordable".