OFF THE RAILS

Main­te­nance leaves south­ern sub­urbs com­muters high and dry

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - LEILA SAMODIEN

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.”

FILE PIC­TURE

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.

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