Train vandalism continues

A train was set alight at Retreat station last week. PRASA encouraged people to report vandalism or suspicious activities so that they could arrest those responsible.

Commuters have been bearing the brunt of continued attacks on trains and infrastructure, having to contend with delays, cancellations and sets out of order.

Last Wednesday, January 15, yet another train was set alight at Retreat station, at about 10pm, while it was stabled overnight at the station yard.

Metrorail has yet to establish the cost of the damage that was caused by the fire to the motor coach.

Richard Walker,Western Cape regional head of the Passenger Rail agency of South Africa (PRASA), said Metrorail rolling stock teams worked through the night to ensure that the train-set was ready for service the next morning.

“An incident investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the fire and the cost estimate of the damage will be confirmed once Prasa’s loss adjusters have assessed the carriage,” he said.

Mr Walker said the public can help by reporting crime and suspicious activities to support effective deployment and operations based on the crime patterns and trend analyses.

He said high levels of vandalism were severely affecting rail services across the region, resulting in massive disruption to commuter services:“According to Prasa security, mass vandalism of electrical wires and the destruction of Prasa infrastructure has resulted in vast sections being closed down due to lack of electrical lines. This, with ongoing modernisation of stations and other related infrastructure has forced Metrorail, the rail operator, to severely scale back its service with some corridors being completely closed at various regions,” said Mr Walker.

Commuter Adrian Venter travels between Retreat station to and from work in Mowbray every week day but said the train service has been unreliable.

“There have been so many times when the trains are late or completely cancelled. It is rarely on time anymore and when it is on time it is full but we have to get to work so
we put our lives in danger by squeezing in or hanging in between carriages.

Mr Venter tried taking a taxi to work but said this was too expensive.

“Then I have to take four taxis, two up and two down and that costs too much money so I am forced to take the train. I hope and pray the vandalism stops so that we can get to and from work, to feed our families,” he said.

Andrea Charles said those responsible for the vandalism must be punished.

“I don’t understand why people are setting the trains alight. We, the people using the trains are merely trying to earn a living and get to and from work. The people who are doing this have no heart because they are messing with out livelihood,” said Ms Charles.

Regional Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said the southern service was regarded as the most stable of all the lines.

“The condition of the infrastructure, stations and train fleet is not as degraded and compromised by external socio-economic service detractors like illegal ingress onto the rail reserve, cable theft, illegal electrical connections, sewerage disposal onto railway tracks by informal communities and other issues, as elsewhere.”

On the central line, two routes, Cape Town to Chris Hani (Khayelitsha) and Cape Town to Kapteinsklip (Mitchell’s Plain), have been suspended indefinitely since November last year.

The services were crippled by the continued theft of rail components and immeasurable damage to essential infrastructure, in particular, overhead electrical lines making it difficult to render a safe service.

Some of the interventions planned by Prasa in response to the ongoing disruptions of services involves alleviating the delays and cancellation of services.

Diesel locomotives will be deployed in areas with no overhead power to run trains, security deployments have been updated to focus on the high-crime hotspots and all procurement contracts for the procurement of spares and other critical services are being expedited to shorten the waiting period.

Zwelakhe Mayaba, acting Prasa Rail CEO, apologised to commu-
ters.

“Prasa apologises to its commuters for all these issues affecting its service delivery due to unprecedented criminality on our system. We have and continue to prioritise customer satisfaction however, the environment we operate it is marred by ongoing vandalism.

“Our current interventions will
only succeed if there is a change in the public’s perception that PRASA
assets are critical to the functioning of passenger rail service,” said Mr Mayaba.

Ms Scott also encouraged commuters to report any suspicious behaviour and to buy tickets.

“Fare evaders exacerbate an already dire situation,” she said.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, MEC for Transport and Public Works, said: “It is always a concern that passengers especially school children, who have just returned to school, have to be inconvenienced by challenges facing the rail system.

“I have been alerted that an investigation is being conducted to determine the cause of the fire. However, I am deeply concerned by the frequency of these fires which endanger commuters’ lives, and contribute to increased congestion on our roads as commuters are forced to make use of taxis and buses, which are intended to be feeder forms of transport from and to trains,” said Mr Madikizela.

To report illegal or suspicious activities contact the Metrorail Protection Services hotline on 021 449 4336/5056, the Retreat Railway Police Unit on 021 710 5129, the RRPU radio control room on 021 443 4309/10, or crime stop on 0860 10111. The Crime line SMS number is 32211.

Rewards of up to R25000 are payable for information leading to successful conviction.