The Mercury

Please let’s take care of these new, world-class People’s Trains


ALL aboard! The People’s Train is here. I am excited like a little boy.

At last we have new, world-class trains. I love trains. When I see trains in Europe and other firstworld places, I feel so despondent that we don’t have such sleek, modern trains gliding on our tracks.

The Durban-Pietermari­tzburg business-class express has come to a halt because of the difficult terrain. As for the local ones, which train lover would want to travel on them? They are so drab, untidy and unsafe.

But now we have the new ones. In bright blue, grey and white colours, they are a welcome sight compared to the dirty yellow, outdated trains that have been in service for more than 40 years. But they come with a hefty price tag – R55 billion for the 600 coaches and locomotive­s.

In all, Prasa, the troubled state entity which has already messed up once when it bought locomotive­s from Spain with the wrong gauge, intends to spend R173 billion over the next 20 years modernisin­g and upgrading its ageing rail infrastruc­ture to bring it in line with First World countries.

In his unveiling address, President Jacob Zuma appealed to commuters not to burn the People’s Train.

A lot of money is being spent to make rail transport fast, efficient, safe and comfortabl­e. The new trains will have CCTV cameras and air conditioni­ng. It’s ours and so we must take care of it. But will we?

We are not at war but still we are a violent nation. So often service delivery protests turn violent and ugly as angry mobs go on the rampage, destroying public property – schools, universiti­es, shops, clinics and vehicles – and even burning books. The latest areas to be turned into a war zone are Johannesbu­rg south and Richards Bay.

When trains are late because of a signalling fault caused by cable theft, the commuters burn them. Which civilised nation burns books and trains? Yet ours is a democracy with representa­tives of government at all levels. If they are not doing their job, hold them accountabl­e.

Shouldn’t the masses vent their anger on them rather than destroy public property? It will be a sad day to see the new trains go up in flames. THYAGARAJ MARKANDAN


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