Trains to Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain still suspended

Train delays and ailing infrastructure have been a big features of the central line. archive photo by Mandla Mnyakama

There is no end in sight of the suspension of the Central line in Cape Town.

It is still not clear when train services on the central line between Cape Town and Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain will resume after being suspended earlier this month. Metrorail stated that trains would not be running to the most populous areas of the Western Cape “due to the theft of more than 730 metres of overhead catenary wire in the Bonteheuwel/ Nyanga area.”

The railway company said that their technical teams would be working “around the clock” to repair the damage. “Updates on repairs and reinstatement of suspended services will follow,” they said. Metrorail spokesperson, Riana Scott said that service alerts would be communicated via passenger information channels such as public address announcements at stations and social media.

Services on the Northern line between Bellville, Strand and Muldersvlei were also suspended temporarily last week due to “extensive damage to infrastructure”.

The railway company said that external socio-economic issues like “vagrancy, drug abuse, illegal electrical connections underneath and over our infrastructure, informal settlements burgeoning within the rails service due to lack of serviced land” impact on the region’s ability to render an acceptable service.

“None of these are Prasa/Metrorail issues yet have significant impact on the train service. Until these issues are adequately resolved by the appropriate agencies no security strategy or resources will be totally effective,” said Scott.

Commuters on the central line have for years complained about the poor train service with frequent train delays and cancellations. Scott said that these are the result of aged infrastructure.

#UniteBehind, a coalition of civil society organisations that has been campaigning against corruption at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), said that even though there are criminals that have caused havoc on the trains, “Metrorail/Prasa uses vandalism as their excuse for everything.” According to #UniteBehind’s spokesperson, Matthew Hirsch, the rail agency has not upgraded the infrastructure and trained guards.

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“Prasa has failed to secure our system and our trains with infrastructure improvements or trained guards. They have destroyed our ability to repair and maintain trains,” said Hirsch.

In a court case in which #UniteBehind was invited as a friend of the court in a matter between Prasa and Sechaba Security and others, Judge President Hlophe ruled in favour of the security companies and #UniteBehind. Prasa had cancelled the use of private security on trains and stations across the country with immediate effect and without a suitable plan in place for security. “This irrational decision placed commuters, rail workers and infrastructure at much worse risk than before,” Hirsch said

According to Metrorail spokesperson, Riana Scott, commuters with monthly tickets to Chris Hani and Kapteinsklip are due for refunds and they must inquire at their stations.

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