Cape Town - Commuters in the Western Cape will have to dig deeper into their pockets for a train ride or face the possibility of limited services, according to Metrorail.
The train fare increase from July 1 ups the cost of single tickets from 50 cents to R1, weeklies from R1 to R2 and monthlies from R2 to R38, depending on travel zone and class.
"Without the fare increase to sustain current service levels the region would have to seriously consider rationalising services," Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker told Fin24.
He said that rail commuters already benefit from a government subsidy which contributes about 50% of the actual cost of operating the current service.
"Metrorail's pro-poor pricing strategy favours the majority of loyal train users and provides cost saver options in weekly and monthly ticket prices. For instance, Metro users pay for only 6.5 trips per week but have the option of 14 trips including the weekends. Similarly, Metro monthly tickets are priced for 3.1 weeks' travel but allow the holder to travel for 4 weeks."
Cosatu opposes tariff hike
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape threatened strike action against Metrorail's fare hike.
"Cosatu is opposed to the Metrorail price increase," provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich told Fin24.
He said Cosatu would be filing a Section 77 Application against Metrorail to stop the increase and to strike if needs be.
"Cosatu opposes any increase in the fares until the trains are running on time and regularly, with sufficient capacity to reduce the chronic levels of overcrowding," said Ehrenreich.
"The current situation is that after spending money on a weekly or monthly ticket, workers have to spend additional money for alternative transport in the event of train delays. This is an extra expense that has become regular due to the bad state of the trains at present."
The Public Transport Voice, which advocates quality and equality in the South African public transport sector, also rejected the price hike.
'Poor people bailing out Metrorail'
"What we are seeing are poor people bailing out Metrorail and Prasa (the Passenger Rail Association of SA) from mismanagement of finances. We are calling on the national Department of Transport, Metrorail and Prasa to find other ways to sustain their budget and we are also calling for the improvement of trains, train stations and time management issues of safety and security," it said in a statement.
Walker dismissed claims of mismanagement of Metrorail's finances.
"Metrorail is subjected to regular audits by the auditor general, the Rail Safety Regulator, NOSA (the National Occupational Safety Association) and SABS (the South African Bureau of Standards) annually and mismanagement would be exposed."
He also pointed out that although the price increase would add about 6.5% revenue to the region's coffers, the balance of operational costs would be funded through additional internal efficiencies and cost savings.
The proposed fare increase is in response to the inflationary escalation of operating costs with electricity a major cost driver, Walker explained. Also contributing to Metrorail's maintenance burden, he said, are old assets, obsolete technology, vandalism, land invasion, service protests and vagrancy.
With trains also becoming a target for criminals, Walker urged commuters to report all incidents.
"Crime is on the increase in general and rail precincts are unfortunately not exempted from criminal attempts. Proactive deployment of security resources is based on security intelligence (and) reactive measures in response to reported incidents, hence the importance of reporting all incidences," he said.
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