Metrorail close to collapse

Janine Myburgh, president, Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Metrorail service is nearing the point of collapse and emergency measures are now necessary to save the system that takes more people to work in Cape Town than any other form of public transport.

If Metrorail can no longer do the job, the whole city and its economy will be in trouble. The City’s Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport, is quite right when he said Metrorail was in a state of crisis.

We hear on the radio every morning that the various services are running very late, usually as a result of cable theft or technical problems, and now we have had arson attacks on trains.

Trains covered in graffiti give the impression that Metrorail is unable to protect its precious coaches. The graffiti is particularly revealing, because it can only be done under lights or during the day, but I have yet to hear of any vandal prosecuted. I know that some have been caught, but there have been problems with the prosecution, and Metrorail does need more support from the police and the public prosecutors. That graffiti not only creates a bad impression but tells the arsonists that it is easy to assault train sets.

When the famous New York clean-up took place, the first target was graffiti, and when the City Partnership restored order in the CBD they used a special anti-graffiti unit and announced that graffiti would be removed the same day. In both cases, the tactic was a success.

There is no graffiti on Golden Arrow buses, MyCiTi buses or even on minibus taxies. Those operators take pride in their vehicles. Metrorail should do better.

The City has offered to help Metrorail police the train service, and I’m sure Golden Arrow could also provide assistance and good advice. A good commuter rail service is in everybody’s interests, and what we need now, more than ever, is co-operation between the City, the police and the different services to catch the vandals and lock them up. We have a state of civic emergency on our hands, and we must take tough measures before we lose the backbone of public transport in Cape Town.