BRIEF | CAPE TOWN 

Chaos at Cape Town station as commuters without tickets cornered by Metrorail

“Why should I buy a ticket when the services are very poor?”

Photo of train
Metrorail customers are refusing to pay for tickets because the service has deteriorated so badly. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks
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There was chaos at Cape Town Central Station on Tuesday morning when incoming commuters on the Khayelitsha line were cornered by Metrorail staff and told to buy tickets.

Many commuters no longer buy train tickets because, they say, the trains do not always reach their destination.

“Why should I buy a ticket when the services are very poor? I am not sure to be at work on time. When the train gets stuck at any point I have to jump off and rush for a minibus taxi,” said a domestic worker working in Pinelands.

She was taking the train from Nyanga Junction to Pinelands station at 7am but it was late, so she had to take a different train to a station further from her work.

At Esplanade train station, the last station before Cape Town, there were security guards at all unauthorised exits. Several passengers going to Esplanade chose not to get off at the station in order to avoid the security guards. Some jumped off as the train approached Cape Town train station, only to jump back on the train when they saw there was no way out.

At the terminus, about 100 passengers were cornered by Metrorail staff and told to buy tickets. Commuters shouted in isiXhosa “Vula” (Open), but no-one was allowed to leave without buying a ticket.

Commuters and security guards try to outwit each other on Tuesday morning. Video: Bernard Chiguvare

Letters

Dear Editor

I use Metrorail quite often. My experience of Metrorail's service is quite dire, to say the least.

It is overcrowded, people hang outside of the doors and it is so unsafe. The ticket checking is inconsistent to the basic standards and rules of Metrorail. I am comparing ticket checking and fines to the smoking on platforms and trains, where a guard can stand next to a person smoking and yet turn a blind eye.

I often travel and every time I get to a station or platform, there would be one or more people smoking with a huge no smoking sign on the platform floor. Several times I have approached a guard and ask them, Is smoking actually allowed? They would just lazily walk up to the person and gently ask them to put out their "cancer stick". Some of the guards like to mock me too.

I took a train from Wittebome station the other day and there was a guy smoking and a guard passed him and saw it but didn't say anything. Minutes later a guard walks pass me, I confronted him about the issue of this person smoking, a couple of metres from me, and told him he was clearly not doing his work properly. He mocked me by walking away and mumbling under his breath. When I asked him what he was saying he just gave me sneering look. He joined some other guards and he told them about our discussion while looking at me in a mocking way. This angers me, and that this is the norm. It doesn't make sense!

Metrorail looks for those who do not pay for tickets for a non existing service and fines them. Yet they do not fine those who are smoking, hanging out of the trains, laying in the roofs or make use of the platform as a toilet? Yes, for those they turn a blind eye! Once at Cape town station, a guy nonchalantly opened his zipper and used the corner to urinate right there! No one said or did anything. The platform also looks worse than a dump site, extremely filthy and papers strewn everywhere. So far I had no success voicing this to Metrorail authorities.

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