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Police slam PRASA on rail safety

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Top policeman shocks provincial legislature with list of complaints

Photo of people boarding train
Police have blamed the Passenger Rail Agency of SA for the lack of safety on Cape Town’s trains. Archive photo: Tariro Washinyira
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A top police officer has blamed the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) for the lack of safety on Cape Town’s trains.

Briefing the Western Cape provincial legislature’s standing committee on community safety on Wednesday, SAPS representative Brigadier Bonginkosi Solucutho said one of the police’s challenges was that CCTV cameras on stations were not seen as a priority by PRASA.

“Cameras are off since 2015. On platforms there are no cameras,” he said.

Other challenges which hindered police work included a lack of fencing and little or no access control to stations; no communication from PRASA to commuters about train cancellations and delays; and overcrowding on the trains as a result of shorter train sets.

“Power failures, weather conditions and commuters’ behaviour make policing difficult.”

He listed other problems:

  • about half of the Metrorail security guards operated without uniforms;
  • security officers were not briefed and deployed jointly with SAPS;
  • contract security guards were not consistently paid;
  • ticket offices were not open when trains were running;
  • the problem of people living on the railway reserve (on either side of the tracks) was not addressed promptly;
  • there was limited communication between Metrorail/PRASA and Transnet operational rooms about train burning incidents, and cutting off power to extinguish fires caused huge delays;
  • standby technicians were not centralised;
  • firefighting equipment was not readily available at all stations; and
  • some trains had no windows, seats or lights.

To emphasise the challenges of policing on trains during peak hours Solucutho played a video clip of an overcrowded train coming on the Central line into Bonteheuwel on the way to Cape Town. In the video clip many people were “surfing” on the train and some standing in the door while the train was in motion.

Cable theft on the railways had risen sharply in 2017-8, SAPS figures presented to Parliament showed. In the 2015-6 year there were 941 incidents of general theft, rising to 972 in 2016-7 and decreasing slightly to 815 in 2017-8. Incidents of cable theft rose from 292 to 478 and then to 711 in the 2017-8 financial year.

This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that the briefing took place in the provincial legislature, not in Parliament.

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TOPICS:  Metrorail

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