President’s message for 2015

2014 has been a very busy and exciting year for the railway environment in South and Southern Africa. The pace of investment in railways picked up speed considerably through the awarding of the 1064 locomotive contracts by Transnet. Four consortia will benefit directly from these contracts and many more companies will benefit indirectly. Furthermore, the Gibela consortium has been gaining traction with the execution of the PRASA contract. In the SADC and sub-Saharan region (SSA) a number of tenders have been issued for rolling stock and track works in various countries.

These are good times to be in the railway industry in SA, SADC and SSA! The hotspot for railway development in the world today and for years to come.

Yet, it has also been a somewhat difficult year at the same time as the world’s economic woes continues and constant pressure remains on both buyers and suppliers to keep head above water.

In order to ensure that local firms are well-positioned to participate in these huge investment programmes and leverage these programmes to become sustainable and competitive businesses, we will be placing a very high priority on the Revitalisation and Industrialization of the South African Railway Supplier Industry. Coupled with this, will be a strong focus on the Skills Development and Training as well as the Youth and Women Mentoring and Development.

As the RRA, we have given much thought to the most recent developments in the transportation and economic environments, with a particular focus on rail of course, and have adapted the strategic direction of the Association to keep pace with these changes. We’ve enhanced the Vision, Mission and Strategic Objectives of the RRA and have identified 10 key pillars (some of which are mentioned in the preceding paragraph) to focus on over the coming years. This enhanced focus has also meant that we needed to strengthen our governance and executive team. In this regard, I must express my sincerest thanks to the Board for the work they have done over the past year who have managed (or perhaps survived) the transition very well.

I wish to extend my deepest gratitude and appreciation to Mr. John Thompson, who stepped down as Chief Executive of the RAA at the end of April. John is an institution in the industry and we will miss him dearly, but at least we still have a ‘hotline’ to him in times of need. Thank you Sir, for your many years of tireless and dedicated service to the Association and the industry at large, not only in South Africa but in the Region as a whole. I would also wish to warmly welcome Mr. Gorman Zimba as the new Chief Executive and wish him every success with the challenging task of executing on the Board’s enhanced vision. Gorman has ‘been there and done that’ and got all the T-shirts. The Board will fully support him in delivering on the ambitious agenda we’ve mapped out for the RRA.

However, in executing and achieving our enhanced strategy, we will need more human and financial resources. We will work diligently and smartly to bring these resources to bear on our work, which is critical to the industry in these exciting times. Sadly, our bank accounts were hacked in August and a fairly large sum of money transferred into accounts of conman. We are working with the bank and Banking Ombudsman to resolve this matter and have the money returned to our coffers.

We will not be able to do our work without the fervent support of our partners. In particular I would like to thank the dti who funds the Export Council part of our work and is also a valuable member of the Board. Our partnership with the Railway Safety Regulator of South Africa is being cemented and will be increasingly important as the massive investment programmes are being rolled out and new technologies are brought into the railway environment and Safety in railway operations continues to be our point of departure. Relative to this partnership, the Committee of Railway Engineers (CRE) is being re-born as the Technical Centre of Excellence and must also rise like a phoenix to fulfill a critical role in the development and monitoring of norms and standards.

It has indeed been a busy and exciting, yet at the same time, a very difficult year. I wish you all a well-deserved break over the festive season and urge you to refresh, recharge, revitalize and re-energize body, heart, mind and soul — for 2015 is the year of EXECUTION!!!

Peace and blessings,

Elvin Harris