CAPE TOWN – Metrorail’s explanations on why commuters in the Western Cape have to put up with severe delays and cancellations, which crippled operations last week were no longer cutting it, train passengers
Metrorail’s blaming cable theft for severe delays and cancellations which crippled operations in the Western Cape last week were no longer cutting it for the general public, with most saying their need for greater security and punctuality were not being met.
Spokeswoman for Metrorail, Daphne Kayster, told the African News Agency (ANA): “Signal head cable theft at Thornton on Tuesday and cable theft at Retreat on Wednesday, furthermore caused service disruptions with commuters experiencing additional travel times between 30 to 60 minutes on the Northern and Southern Line respectively.”
However, commuters in the greater Cape Town area reported delays for up to two and a half hours on some days, leading to chaotic scenes at Cape Town station.
Regan Duthie, 21, from Parow, is a student and said that the delays were simply a build-up to a severely overloaded train, which was “uncomfortable and horrible”.
He said he had been experiencing ongoing train issues since the beginning of 2016 and a year later, things had still not changed. “I got robbed on my way home from class, they held a knife to my head and there was no security in sight,” said Duthie.
Sizinikiwe Gaqa, 21, from Kraaifontein, and also a student, said that she was sometimes forced to miss her first class in the morning due to delays by Metrorail.
A friend of Gaqa’s, Sisipho Mqaqambiso bemoaned the lack of security, saying she sometimes had to take the late train at 7:30pm, which made her feel unsafe. “They once tried to rob me and I had to run away because there was no security.”
“If there are delays, I have no choice but to wait, no matter how late it is. I don’t have an alternative,” added Mqaqambiso.
According to Kayster, Metrorail suffered, on average, 47 incidents of theft (cable and other infrastructural components) across the region each month.
“If the security was up to par, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for vandalism,” argued Duthie.
Provincial secretary for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Tony Ehrenreich, expressed his concerns about the state of Metrorail. “The delays in the train times are inconveniencing our members. Metrorail is not investing in upgrades of rolling stock and infrastructure and we are considering further action of protesting against Metrorail, for cancellations and delays,” said Ehrenreich.
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janine Myburgh told the African News Agency (ANA), that approximately 732,000 commuters used the train service each day. “If they were all late, as happens on a regular basis, millions of productive man/hours are lost each month. Making the situation even worse is that delays on the journey home means that commuters also lose valuable family time,” said Myburgh.
Going forward, Myburgh suggested that the train service be stabilised and then Metrorail should start the rebuild while new train sets and an improved signalling system becomes available.
“If operated efficiently, it has the potential to move two million people to and from work,” said Myburgh.