“You never know what time the train is coming. All you do is wait and hope that it comes,” said Khayelitsha train commuter Dumisa Mbolekwana. “The train system is so bad and the criminals know it. They get us when we wait for delayed trains.”
Mbolekwana was among Cape Town commuters who had a chance to express their views directly to PRASA regional manager Richard Walker and Brigadier Bonginkosi Solucotho of the Rapid Rail Police, on Wednesday.
During a trip arranged by civil society group Public Transport Voice, Walker and Solucotho rode the central line from Nolungile to Nonkqubela.
A woman in a Metrorail uniform shouted to the commuters, referring to Walker: “That is the person you should be shouting and swearing at, not us. He knows why the trains are delayed.”
Most of the windows on the train were broken and some doors did not close properly. At Nolungile, some of the security cameras had been ripped out.
“People are not safe and there is no visibility of security and police in the stations in the central line,” said Public Transport Voice spokesperson Dalton Ndongeni.
“No one tells you what is going on [with delays] and even if you have a monthly ticket they do not provide alternative transport. You have to use your own money to find other means of getting where you want to go,” complained Mzuvukile Zokhwe.
He said he needed the trains because they were the cheapest and in some areas the most easily accessible form of transport.
Nolubabalo Moni said, “You can’t carry a bag because you do not want to attract criminals. You must hide your cellphone, bank cards and your money on your body … I work in the southern suburbs and use the train that side and it is not like this [central line]. There are security guards walking inside the trains and the trains have windows, but not this side. Why?” she asked.
Walker said, “If we look at the problem in isolation we are going to miss the point, and we are not going to solve the problem. We need to start at why the service is in the condition that it is in currently. We have lost the infrastructure that services this [central] line from Bonteheuwel to Philippi,” he said
“Everything has been stolen. The room [Bonteheuwel substation] is empty. All the cables have been removed. In the area between Bonteheuwel and Netreg we have gang bosses sending people to go and steal copper. They use people who are desperate to go and steal … Our people [PRASA] are being robbed and shot at while they are patrolling in the area,” said Walker.
He said a new signalling system for the central line would be in place by July 2019.
Walker said that currently there were 88 armed guards to escort train drivers on the central line. He said PRASA and the police had established a task team to deal with the issue of train burning.
“We have lost more than 30 coaches in recent weeks. Someone decided they are going to deliberately set our trains alight … They get burnt at night, when it’s empty and quiet. There is a motive,” said Walker.
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