The continuing decline in passenger rail investment is making it difficult for the rail industry to provide an efficient alternative transport to commuters. That’s the word echoed by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) at the Africa Rail Conference held in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Prasa says there has been an under-investment of over R300 million in passenger rail transport in the past 40 years.

The agency admitted that the rail market share which is only 10%, is relatively low. About 80% of commuters are unhappy with overcrowding in the trains.

It’s pinning its hopes on new trains which are expected to improve efficiency.

Prasa’s general manager of strategic network planning, Hishaam Emeran says the Gauteng province has experienced population growth of 70% since 1996 and about 60% of commuters in Gauteng use public transport.

Experts say public transport must meet the evolving needs of commuters.

Executive Gautrain Management Agency, Ravi Pillay says, “We need to understand that the current end user operates at a platform level meaning he uses mobile devise to travel around and we need to integrate our transport to technology.”

Delegates at the conference admit that a lot still needs to be done to provide proper infrastructure and technology to meet the changing needs of commuters and make public transport accessible and efficient to commuters.