Suspended train service hits commuters’ pockets hard
PROTESTS over service delivery have resulted in Metrorail not operating the Vereeniging-Joburg route for more than two months, leaving many commuters frustrated and paying R60 a day to travel to and from work.
Some frustrated commuters yesterday said they feel like the service delivery protest is punishing them for issues beyond their control.
Last month, furious residents of an informal settlement in Vereeniging blockaded a railway line in the area with rocks while demonstrating over housing.
A 17-year-old boy was gunned down, a Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) security guard was killed and a pregnant woman was wounded during the violent protest over housing.
Although the protests have ended, Metrorail has not lifted its suspension of services.
Prasa senior marketing and communications manager Lillian Mofokeng said it was unfortunate the protests had forced the suspension of Metrorail operations.
“There were service delivery protests that unfortunately led and resulted in Metrorail’s operations being suspended in the area with immediate effect,” she said.
Frustrated commuter Alice Seboka said they had to resort to routes far from where they live to get transport to work.
“We have to walk from Johannesburg to Vereeniging to get taxis.”
She added that the suspension of Metrorail services had resulted in extra costs for commuters and that they couldn’t afford to spend money they didn’t have.
“A monthly train ticket costs me R235 and now I have to get two taxis in the morning and two in the afternoon, costing R60 a day. My monthly total has shot up to R1 440. This is more than 35% of my salary. Sometimes I don’t have money for rent or food.”
Another commuter, Julius Lefaso, also expressed disappointment over the delay in resuming services.
“Even if there are trains, they sometimes come late and there is no security,” he said.
Ward 58 committee member Abeda Bamjee said the suspension was affecting her business and she had been emailing numerous people from the transport service.
“Their response shows their lack of care at the public service they render. That is why they are embarking on collective punishment for thousands of commuters.”
Thabisang Lebeoe of Metrorail customer services said two stations were vandalised during the protests.
“We cannot offer buses for commuters because they will vandalise them like they are doing to our trains. Moreover, the buses are not ours, therefore that would incur additional costs for us.”
Gauteng Roads and Transport Department secretary Sofia Yusuf spoke on behalf of the MEC, Ismail Vadi, and said he wasn’t aware that the issue had escalated into the suspension of trains.