Keep our rail services on track
Gradually passenger train services are returning to the tracks much to the relief of tens of thousands of commuters who for years relied on this mode of transport to travel to work.
This week it was the turn of Soweto with the reopening of the Naledi to Park Station Metrorail corridor, which has been shut for more than two and half years. While the train services are still limited and do not cover the breadth of Gauteng, there is reason for optimism as work to repair the pillaged infrastructure, including tracks, is forging ahead.
According to the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), the next major corridors to be restored will be the Leralla to Johannesburg, which serves the community of Tembisa, and the Pretoria to Kaalfontein. We urge the government not to lose momentum with this long-awaited restoration of train services whose absence caused exasperation.
It is also high time that communities around the rail network that has been repaired protect it against theft and vandalism, which we saw during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. With Prasa now doing its best by improving security to protect key infrastructure, the public also needs to play its part in ensuring we don’t lose this essential infrastructure ever again. Crime in this country is a national problem, which requires a collective effort to overcome, and the theft and vandalism of our railway infrastructure should be regarded as such. Perhaps it is also not too late to consider reviving what we are told was once a reliable railway police to help bring to an end this problem.
With gridlocked roads, the rising cost of fuel and a lack of alternative safe, efficient, affordable and reliable public transport in our cities, rail is the commuting masses’ only hope. We welcome that Prasa has sought to address the many problems that have plagued commuter trains, such as petty crime and train surfing, with increased security in the coaches and stations.
We also urge the public to manage expectations that some things may simply not return to the way they were before the pandemic. But equally, we appeal to the authorities to accommodate the hawkers and not criminalise their quest to make a living.