Lim­ited trains to run de­spite chal­lenges

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - SISONKE MLAMLA sisonke.mlamla@inl.co.za

THE United Na­tional Trans­port Union (Untu) says its doubts that the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) will be ready to resume its lim­ited train ser­vices to­day.

Act­ing gen­eral sec­re­tary, John Pereira, said is­sues re­ported to the union in­di­cated that Prasa did not have enough time af­ter its Covid19 readi­ness bud­get by the Trans­port Depart­ment was ap­proved last week, to at­tend to all the ar­eas that have been ne­glected due to its cash flow con­straints dur­ing the lock­down.

All Prasa ser­vices have been sus­pended since the start of lock­down.

Pereira said Prasa planned on only re­sum­ing 15% of the nor­mal ca­pac­ity and to use mar­shals, to start with their du­ties to­day, to as­sist the Prasa pro­tec­tion ser­vices with crowd con­trol, and said the po­lice promised to as­sist Prasa by al­lo­cat­ing 40 po­lice of­fi­cials na­tion­wide.

He said that ac­cord­ing to Untu mem­bers, they have run out of the re­quired per­sonal protective equip­ment.

They were not is­sued with fa­cial masks but were given five litres of sani­tiser to sani­tise em­ploy­ees re­sum­ing their du­ties and to sani­tise com­muters.

Pereira said in Cape Town ev­ery­thing seemed ready to resume ser­vices on the south­ern cor­ri­dor, but train driv­ers re­ported that there are not enough driv­ers to resume their du­ties.

“Be­cause of the pro­longed pe­riod they had to sit at home dur­ing the lock­down, the train driv­ers needed to do re­fresher train­ing on the route be­fore they could start driv­ing again and they needed to un­dergo med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions. Ac­cord­ing to them, Prasa failed to pay the bill of the med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers.”

He said the train con­trol of­fice, which au­tho­rises the driv­ers in the Western Cape, were closed yes­ter­day af­ter two Covid-19 pos­i­tive cases were re­ported. How­ever, the of­fices were dis­in­fected and were sched­uled to re­open to­day at 6am.

Prasa spokesper­son Makhosini Mgi­tywa said Prasa would strictly ad­here to the Covid-19 hy­giene pro­to­cols which in­clude so­cial dis­tanc­ing on plat­forms and in­side trains. The wear­ing of masks would also be strictly en­forced.

Mgi­tywa said the Western Cape line would op­er­ate be­tween Cape Town and Re­treat sta­tions, with the morn­ing peak ser­vice op­er­at­ing from 5am to 9am and the af­ter­noon peak pe­riod from 9am to 3pm.

United Com­muters Voice (UCV) spokesper­son João Jardim said UCV was invited by the act­ing re­gional man­ager Ray­mond Maseko “who then with his team took us through the process in which com­muters will be al­lowed to en­ter and exit the sta­tions”.

Jardim said they raised con­cerns about a few is­sues per­tain­ing to new pro­ce­dures com­muters were ex­pected to fol­low and the danger of spread­ing Covid-19.

“UCV warned that if the staff are not co-or­di­nated to con­trol the flow of traf­fic in an or­derly fash­ion then the trains must stop oper­a­tions,” he said.

Jardim said there were a few is­sues which they high­lighted such as sani­tiser, mis­in­for­ma­tion of plat­forms and sig­nal fail­ures. How­ever, he said they sup­ported the tremen­dous ef­fort put in by Metro­rail and wished him and his team the best.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula, Prasa ad­min­is­tra­tor Bongi­sizwe Mpondo and Prasa chief ex­ec­u­tive Nosipho Da­masane in­spected var­i­ous sites be­long­ing to Prasa ahead of the grad­ual re­sump­tion of its oper­a­tions yes­ter­day.

They ob­served the so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in place, sani­ti­sa­tion of the fa­cil­i­ties and the use of per­sonal protective equip­ment by of­fi­cials.

TRAIN ser­vices are set to resume. How­ever, unions claim that there are nu­mer­ous un­re­solved is­sues stem­ming from the pro­longed lock­down.

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