Torched trains a R70m setback

2012-10-12 20:01
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Pretoria - Repairing the damage caused by the torching of two trains in Mabopane, north of Pretoria will cost about R70 million, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) said on Friday.

Prasa rail CEO Mosenngwa Mofi said train services to that corridor had been suspended indefinitely.

"The conditions at this stage are not appropriate for us to run our services on that corridor," he told reporters in Pretoria.

"It's about time our people learn that these are public assets and you cannot resort to damage, arson, and theft when there is a problem."

Two Metrorail trains were set alight by irate commuters on Thursday after train services were delayed in bad weather.

Mofi said eight coaches were torched at Kopanong station and one at Akasia.

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

He said the trains were running "extremely late" on Thursday because of the rainy weather. 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."

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

On Friday, the Democratic Alliance condemned the torching of trains.

DA Gauteng spokesperson Neil Campbell called on police to bring the attackers to book.

"If the perpetrators of the coach torching can be identified, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Campbell said though the attack was unjustified, the DA believed it showed commuters were not satisfied with the Prasa service.

"The incidents highlight the anger being felt by commuters at the dismal performance of Prasa and its decrepit trains, outdated signalling, and its total inability to provide reliable, punctual, safe, and affordable public transport to commuters," Campbell said.

"They also highlight the lack of efficacy of the SA Police Service, which took over the function of the old railway police and on whose shoulders the responsibility to protect passengers and Prasa property now rests," he said.

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