Cape Town’s busiest train route, the central line has been reopened after 6 weeks of suspension following the shooting murder of a security guard at Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha.
Metrorail central line trains have resumed services on Wednesday, 21 February, following an almost 6-week long suspension of its services. Trains will be running at hourly intervals.
Suspension of the services followed the shooting of a security guard at Chris Hani train station early last month. Commuters have been assured of safety as operations resume.
The Parliament Portfolio Committee on Transport last week ordered PRASA to urgently reopen the central line which services Cape Town’s biggest townships, Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.
The committee agreed with PRASA, Unite Behind and United National Transport Union (UNTU), the civil organisations representing commuters in Cape Town, that security should be beefed up for the safety of commuters and Metrorail employees.
According to Regional Manager Richard Walker, 88 additional armed security guards and two armoured vehicles have been deployed to patrol day and night to enable technical teams to repair vital equipment and prevent further attacks on rail infrastructure.
Meanwhile, United National Transport Union has welcomes the decision by PRASA. They want PRASA Richard Walker to be removed from his post.
The union, which is the majority union at PRASA, claims that Walker does not have the ability to implement preventive measures to stop chaos from erupting at stations when trains are delayed.
Tony Ehrenreich from COSATU Western Cape says the deterioration of Metrorail service trains was detected as far back as 2000 when the union federation started campaigning on the challenges facing Metrorail.
“None of those promises they made have been realised over the years as the service goes from bad to worse, due to chronic underinvestment in infrastructure,” says Ehrenreich. This deterioration of services, he says, is partly due to the looting of PRASA funds by the Gupta family.
The trade union federation is calling for a national response to the Western Cape Metrorail failures.
The suspension has had a negative effect on commuters. In an effort to find out what the impact on them has been, Elitsha got in touch with train commuters who have been using minibus taxis.
“I am happy that trains are back. Really when these trains were cancelled I failed to manage transport cost. I had to part with R160 per week using taxis from Gugulethu compared to R175 per month on trains,” says Asipho Cekiso (25). He boards the train at Nyanga Junction destined for Cape Town Station.
Cekiso’s lifestyle had already changed. All was not well with him.
“When using minibus taxis every time I had to wake up around 5 a.m. to prepare myself and leave to queue for taxis to town. I usually had to stand in a queue for almost one and a half hours. I am supposed to start work in town at 8:30 a.m. but for these 5 weeks I arrived at work around 9:30 a.m. Every time I had to explain to my boss.”
Cekiso says commuting by train is very much better. “If trains operate normally I do not have any problem. I wake up at 7 a.m. and rush for the 7:30 train to Cape Town.”
Hilda Chiyangwa who also uses trains to commute to Pinelands said, “For the five weeks [without trains running] I really could not manage financially. My monthly budget for train from Nyanga Junction to Pinelands is R175. Now using taxi for the month is R600. I cannot afford.”
To meet her monthly budget she had to borrow from friends, which was not easy in itself. “I am not used to this idea of borrowing. I feel demeaned,” she says.