Cape Times

Metrorail’s woes continue

- Lisa Isaacs

‘Every effort will be made to restore the service to commuters’

DESPITE the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) and the United National Transport Union (Untu) coming to an agreement that staff would return to work and restore service on the notoriousl­y dangerous Central Line, vandalism has rendered the line inoperable once again.

Prasa and Untu agreed to restore the service on Tuesday after the line was suspended for a week, forcing tens of thousands of commuters to find alternativ­e transport.

The suspension of the Central Line followed the murder of a security guard who was robbed by unidentifi­ed suspects at Chris Hani train station in Khayelitsh­a last week.

Metrorail spokespers­on Riana Scott said yesterday: “The Bontheuwel sub-station and relay room was completely ransacked on January 2 and this past weekend the one at Nyanga. Our teams were out at first light to do repairs.”

This means that both sub-stations supplying traction power for train operations are not functional and insufficie­nt traction power is available to operate trains.

“Rail safety is stringentl­y regulated and all engineerin­g assessment­s, safety checks and operationa­l logistics must be completed before trains can operate.”

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said every effort will be made to restore the service to commuters as soon as safely possible.

“Given the stringent safety requiremen­ts, engineers will do the necessary repair and safety checks to ensure that trains can operate safely.”

Prasa employees agreed to return to work on the condition of, among others, that two police officers escort the train driver, two police officers escort the Metro train guard, and a police officer deployed in the middle cab as back-up.

Untu has also requested armed guards at all the hotspot train stations, including but not limited to Netreg, Bonteheuwe­l, Heideveld, Nyanga and Langa.

Untu general secretary Steve Harris said if Prasa or police fail to adhere to the agreement, the train service on the Central Line will be suspended again.

“This is what Untu has been demanding for the past two years. Although it is a relief for the employees working on the Central Line, one must never forget that five innocent workers paid with their lives because basic security measures were not met.”

Communitie­s have been requested to assist police and Metrorail to continue operations by reporting any crimes/suspicious activity.

Full anonymity of the informatio­n sources is guaranteed and a reward of up to R25 000 is payable for any informatio­n leading to a conviction.

The Metrorail Protection Services hotline can be reached at 021 449 4336/5056.

AFAST, reliable, predictabl­e and safe railway system is a hallmark of every great city. The only thing predictabl­e about Cape Town’s train system is that it will reliably let you down. To put it mildly, Metrorail is holding Cape Town back from being a great city.

Metrorail has an immense responsibi­lity as the backbone of our public transport network, ferrying some 600 000 people to and from work every day. It has an added responsibi­lity due to the legacy of our city’s history and the current reality means those who rely on public transport the most live far from work.

That one of the most important routes, the Central line, has been suspended, due to vandalism and labour issues, for more than a week is simply unacceptab­le. The lines that are currently operating run habitually late.

The knock-on effect is devastatin­g and involves a perfect storm of late employees, increasing­ly disgruntle­d employers and a drag on the local economy that we can ill afford due to worse productivi­ty from late-coming. The knock-on effect is felt on our roads too as more and more people opt to use their cars to come to work, adding to congestion.

The ageing infrastruc­ture, vandalism and theft have taken its toll on the embattled train service. But this has been the case for many years with little or no interventi­on to improve the status quo.

There has been talk of a revitalisa­tion programme that is now a few years in the making but with little to show. For the thousands who have resigned themselves to an underperfo­rming service this is cold comfort.

The City of Cape Town has made noises about its willingnes­s to take over the train service. Perhaps it is time Metrorail considers such an offer of outsourced leadership or a curatorshi­p of its operationa­l activities.

Metrorail showed us in one month, during the 2010 World Cup, that it could run an efficient train service. That it reverted to business as usual just weeks after the tournament is an insult to its commuters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa