Will Metrorail users have to wait 17 years for decent service?

2017-02-22 17:54
Commuters abandon a Metrorail train and walk to Maitland train station, crisscrossing the railway tracks for about half a kilometre.  (Bernard Chiguvare, GroundUp)

Commuters abandon a Metrorail train and walk to Maitland train station, crisscrossing the railway tracks for about half a kilometre. (Bernard Chiguvare, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - On Saturday at 07:00 a train from Nyanga Junction to Cape Town stopped between Ndabeni and Maitland train stations. After a quarter of an hour, commuters jumped out and walked to Maitland train station, crisscrossing the railway tracks for about half a kilometre.

On Monday morning commuters faced an at least a 20-minute delay from Fish Hoek. There was no announcement about whether or not the 08:22 train was cancelled, GroundUp reported.

A Metrorail worker said the train would leave at 08:30. (There is meant to be an 08:31 train and an 08:49 train as well).

A few minutes after leaving Fish Hoek the train stood for a further three minutes just outside the station. It stopped again three more times before reaching Rondebosch station, 15 minutes late, and continuing to Cape Town.

These are everyday experiences on trains. It just so happens that the authors of this article experienced these particular ones first-hand. Cancellations, delays, overcrowding and criminal activity are a daily problem faced by Metrorail commuters. On particularly bad days, delays can be as long as four hours. (There are also much more severe events like the collision of two trains that injured more than 200 people in Johannesburg on Monday.)

Metrorail has explanations for this. In March 2014 the Western Cape Metrorail regional manager at the time, Mthuthuzeli Swartz, said the National Station Upgrade Programme in 2015/2016 would include the upgrade of train stations at Nolungile, Lentegeur, Philippi, Bonteheuwel and Mandalay.

Since that time Lucky Montana, the CEO of the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa), the parastatal of which Metrorail is a division, has been fired. His successor Collins Letsoalo denied that Metrorail was in distress, and promised to implement a turnaround strategy by October 2016.

New trains expected

In an interview published in February 2016, Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott told GroundUp:

- By 2034 Metrorail aimed to have everything "operating smoothly".

- The infrastructure and the trains had reached the end of their design lifespan and Metrorail was expecting the arrival of five new trains between 2017 and 2018.

"We don't have a short-term solution for peak hour demand and overcrowding in trains."

- A new station in Philippi was nearly completed and only final touch-ups were being made.

On Tuesday, a year later, Scott told GroundUp:

- The Western Cape could expect its first modern trains by 2019/2020. "The latest trains acquired [were] for our highest density corridor (the Khayelitsha/Chris Hani line) in 1986."

- Metrorail would revamp stations as well as the Salt River depot in preparation for the new trains.

Meanwhile, construction of the Philippi station is at a standstill. Temporary containers are being used as the station building in the meanwhile.

"The journey of putting the Prasa turnaround strategy is well in place," Prasa's senior marketing and communication manager Lillian Mofokeng said on Tuesday when asked for an update on the 2034 plan.

Read more on:    metrorail  |  cape town  |  transport

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