OFF THE RAILS
Maintenance leaves southern suburbs commuters high and dry
METRORAIL’S decision to cut its southern suburbs service at 3pm at weekends infuriated so many commuters that the corporation has done a U-turn – but the reprieve is to be short-lived.
The service will be cut again on December 15 until further notice to give Metrorail time to do rolling stock maintenance before the World Cup.
Last weekend, many commuters arrived at stations along the route only to find that the late trains on Saturdays and Sundays had been discontinued.
Last Saturday, no trains left Cape Town for Simon’s Town after 3pm, while on Sunday, the last train left at 4.15pm.
The last trains departing from Simon’s Town left at similar times.
From December 15 there will be no service to and from Cape Town to Simon’s Town after mid-afternoon at weekends, just as the schools break for the summer holidays and tourists pour into the city. Previously the last trains to and from Simon’s Town stopped running about 8pm at weekends.
The plight of workers and residents along the False Bay coast is aggravated by a complete lack of buses along the Main Road beyond Retreat. This was confirmed by Golden Arrow.
And a taxi war has broken out between taxi drivers in the Retreat, Steenberg and Vrygrond areas, so taxi services are unreliable.
Heather Storer, manager of a nursing agency in Fish Hoek, said about 20 of her nurses depended on trains to get to work every weekend.
Day staff ended their shift at 6pm and took the train home, while night staff came in at 6pm.
They did not want to take taxis because of the danger following the latest violence.
“There was no warning, or if there was, we never heard about it,” she said. “Evidently Metrorail thinks nobody works at weekends, when my girls, as well as other workers, completely depend on trains. And what about all the people taking the train to the beach during the summer holidays? This whole new schedule is extremely short-sighted.”
On the taxi front, tensions between the Vrygrond and Retreat taxi associations have been flaring since September in a struggle over routes. This has resulted in a number of clashes, as well as the arrest of two taxi drivers after a flare-up on Tuesday.
Muizenberg police spokesman Captain Stephen Knapp said the situation was still volatile, and that many commuters were concerned for their safety.
“I’ve noticed that many people are not taking taxis and are rather choosing to walk to work.
“It’s a personal choice for people whether they want to take taxis along that route, but we’re definitely monitoring the situation.
“We’ll continue to have personnel in the area until such time as things go back to normal, and we don’t feel they have yet.”
Metrorail Western Cape spokeswoman Riana Scott said the corporation had restored the old timetable – but only until December 15 – four days after schools break up.
They would in the meantime review the concerns that have been raised and meet with provincial and local transport authorities to talk about transport alter natives for workers.
Scott said they were using the next few weeks – the Western Cape’s last “quiet period” before the World Cup which begins in mid-June – to concentrate on maintenance.
“Next year the 2010 festivities and dry runs start in January and we need to be ready,” she said.
“We need to pay attention to perennially problematic trains to ensure that we optimise our fleet usage to ensure maximum reliability and punctuality.
“We started this preparation by removing the later Saturday and Sunday trains to test the changes.
“We communicated this to our customers and stakeholders via our weekly newspaper, text alerts, notices at ticket windows and through station announcements.”
ON A ROLL: A train clatters past St James’s iconic beach cabins. Southern suburbs commuters are irate because Metrorail wants to stop trains running after 3pm so it can do rolling stock maintenance.