Rail boss decries destructive 'culture'

2012-10-12 22:11
(Picture: Beeld)

(Picture: Beeld)

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Pretoria - Passenger Rail Agency of SA rail CEO Mosenngwa Mofi on Friday condemned the setting alight of two trains by rowdy commuters in Mabopane, north of Pretoria because of delays caused by bad weather.

"Let's be honest, this is a culture issue. In this country, when people vent anger they resort to destroying the very same assets that they will need the next day," he said.

"We cannot tolerate this. It is not acceptable. If it means people are going to suffer in the process, then let it be. We have been very soft on these incidents."

He said the rail agency was going to deal with the Mabopane vandalism "decisively".

"You cannot torch a train that takes you to work everyday. This means we now have two trains out of the system, and you can imagine the level of overcrowding," he said.

Mofi said trains had been withdrawn because of infrastructure damage. He said it would cost about R70m to repair damage caused by the torching of the trains.

The withdrawal of the train service would affect more than 60 000 daily commuters in the area.

Mofi said Prasa was offering a R50 000 reward to members of the public who volunteered information leading to the successful conviction of those responsible for the arson.

"We will also be conducting a board of inquiry into the matter. It will not only look at the incident itself, but the circumstances around the incidents," he said.

Problems had hounded Metrorail operations in the Mabopane area, said Mofi.

"A few weeks ago there were service delivery protests that had nothing to do with trains, but we were victims there. Our tracks and overheads [cables] were burnt," he said.

Regarding the continuation of service to the turbulent area, Mofi said "there is no way that the rail service will operate in that specific corridor".

He urged the commuters to make their own plans for alternative transport, such as buses and taxis.

Mofi said the trains were torched at Kopanong station and at Akasia.

Both trains were en route to Mabopane from Koedoespoort station, east of Pretoria.

He said trains were running "extremely late" on Thursday because of rain. The situation was exacerbated by the old Metrorail infrastructure.

"A lightning strike had resulted in a power failure, affecting control panels and overhead power," he said.

"It must be appreciated that we run our rail operations with old infrastructure, which is prone to constant failure."

Meanwhile, Metrorail said train ticket-holders in Mabopane will be refunded.

Only monthly ticket holders would be reimbursed, said Gauteng Metrorail provincial manager Tembela Kulu.

"We have a system in place and commuters know it. When we withdraw a service, we have a system for monthly [ticket-holders]," she said.

"As for weekly [ticket-holders], their tickets will end on Sunday and the refund is not for them."

The company said it was not being "punitive" to the community, but circumstances had gone beyond its control.

"The reality is that we can't just run the service. It's now beyond our control to run it," she said.

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