Cosatu lambasts City’s intention of taking over PRASA

Passenger hanging on train doors and outside because of overcrowding and train delays. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

Cape Town Councillor for Transport and Urban Development announced the City’s intention to take over management of commuter rail. Cosatu differs, saying that public transport must be the responsibility of higher tiers of government, as well as warning of a political ploy

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The City is playing politics when they intend on running trains in Cape Town says Cosatu in a statement.

This follows an announcement on Tuesday by the City’s Transport and Urban Development of its intention to take over commuter rail management.

“The system of rail needs to be fixed as a matter of urgency lest more death and job losses accrue. Public transport as a whole is dysfunctional as the City, Province and National [government] should have deployed more taxi and buses to the routes that are affected by bad train service to overcome the problem in the short term. But they have done nothing to address this and now they are playing politics by saying that they want to run trains,” says Cosatu.

According to Cosatu, the City and Province have failed residents of Western Cape.

“The reality is that the City and the Province has allowed the complete breakdown of society, by not providing homes and services to poor communities, so the law of the jungle prevails. Even if there were new trains tomorrow the vandalism and problems of cable theft would continue. The City and Province must do the work that they are supposed to do and things will get better and not grandstand on things they cannot do.”

Cosatu vows to continue putting pressure on Metrorail to fix the service and improve the commute for workers. Recently, Cosatu went on a strike and delivered a memorandum to PRASA demanding among others that train ticket prices be halved, that more buses and taxis be brought in to service the Cape Flats and townships, and a proper public transport system be implemented in rural areas.

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Brett Herron, the MEC for Transport and Urban Development, announced the City’s intention to take over management of commuter rail.

He describes commuter rail services in Cape Town as on the verge of total collapse.

Metrorail commuters on several occasions have complained about its unreliability, which frustrations have been vented to an extent by the torching of coaches.

In June this year, commuters torched PRASA trains due to their unreliability, the shortage of coaches and a lack of security as they come back from work. The damaged train-sets were reportedly designated for the Cape Flats and Central Route.

PRASA management acknowledged the concern of commuters, blaming ailing infrastructure for train delays in Cape Town. “The current reality is that the old and poor condition of rolling stock and infrastructure impact negatively on the ability of Metrorail in achieving its objective of delivering quality services to customers. The assets and infrastructure has exceeded its design life; most are aged between 35 – 50 years.”

This has led to overcrowding at peak hours, and made the journey time longer as compared to transport alternatives. Herron admits that the number of passengers making use of commuter rail has declined sharply since 2015 – by as much as 30% according to the latest data received from Metrorail.

“Personal safety and security is compromised – 26% of the complaints registered with the Transport Information Centre relate to inadequate security. At least one out of every ten trains (11%) is cancelled on a daily basis”, reads the statement.

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The Transport MEC is waiting for council approval and will present a business plan to the National Department of Transport. Inclusive in the plan is dividing urban rail system into 16 key functional components: the train operations, signalling, stations, ticketing, transport enforcement and rolling stock.

Councillor Brett Herron City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

Herron says his plan to bring commuter rail under the City’s management is not a novelty. Apparently, there are many cities around the world that are responsible for rail, including Paris, New York, London, Bogota, Tokyo, Rio and a number of cities in India.

He also promised to fast-track feasibility studies on alternative rail services such as monorail.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.