Unhappiness over Metrorail’s selective shuttle alternatives

Vandalism and copper wire theft bedevil trains

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Photo of a train
Esplenade Station, Cape Town. Photo: Masixole Feni

Public Transport Voice (PTV), an NGO that advocates for safe and reliable public transport, is unhappy that Metrorail only provided alternative shuttle services on the southern line during the rail disruption last week.

Delays on Metrorail trains were worse than usual, sometimes over four hours. On the weekend of 27 November train services ground to a halt, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

On Tuesday last week, alternative transport was provided, but only for commuters on the southern line. People with monthly and weekly tickets could use them on the Golden Arrow bus service from Plumstead to Cape Town after 8am and on PRASA buses after 9am. A special Golden Arrow bus operated from Cape Town to Retreat for people with weekly and monthly tickets.

Commuters to Cape Town from Simon’s Town had to get off at platform three at Plumstead and either catch a bus or go to platform one to catch another train to Cape Town. The train would sometimes stand for over an hour.

Metrorail Spokesperson Riana Scott said the problems were caused by vandalism: “Vandals target copper bearing cables. On occasions these are multi-core cables regulating the signalling systems. Signals for trains fulfil the role of traffic lights at intersections – without these trains have to be individually authorised, a safe but time consuming option similar to a STOP/GO scenario during road works.”

Scott said that after an operational assessment of the damage and the level of service that could be offered, “the section between Rondebosch–Wynberg was [deemed] the worst affected with no train traffic possible in that section. Hence Golden Arrow’s services were requested. In all other areas train shuttles were able to operate.”

In a statement, PTV said it condemns vandalism of train infrastructure, but said it is PRASA’s responsibility to safeguard the infrastructure.

“What is the job of the Prasa protection service if things are going to be vandalised under their watch? They are just there to check tickets and insult commuters because that is what they are good at,” said Dalton Ndongeni from PTV.

He said delays on the central line inconvenienced people who most depended on trains to get to work every day.

On Monday, Scott said: “The major sites have been repaired and we are operating an optimal service under current conditions.”

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TOPICS:  Transport

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