Security challenges sapping resources, Prasa admits

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa spokesperson Nana Zenani told Fin24 on Friday that the company would respond to the concerns of train drivers regarding safety and security at train stations.

The United National Transport Union went on strike nationally on Friday, rendering Prasa's passenger rail operator Metrorail capable of offering only a limited service on the day.

The union marched to the Union Buildings to demand that the South African National Defence Force be deployed to watch over stations and drivers.

The chief concern behind the strike was safety and security for train drivers and other staff, as drivers said crime, vandalism and cable theft had got out of hand.

Zenani told Fin24 that Prasa has had plans to improve the state of safety and security at stations for some time.

"We won’t be able to make that call and assertion regarding the army, because it is outside of our mandate. We have embarked on a security upgrade program and got security companies' assistance. The minister of transport has raised the issue of vandalism and crime," said Zenani.

Zenani said the crime and vandalism happening on and around commuter trains was not only affecting the morale of train drivers, but was also affecting Prasa’s finances.

"We are also suffering with them when it comes to vandalism and cable theft. It creates a problem in terms of how we operate. It slows our services down and affects its quality," Zenani said.

She said while the challenge has escalated considerably, even UNTU agrees that Prasa has invested in improving security at stations.

"UNTU also acknowledge that things go beyond what Prasa manages and what Prasa can do. The modernisation program comes with the supply of new trains which we manufacture at our own plant, but we already have standing trains that have been vandalised.

"The measures will not be overnight because of the age of the system. The attacks that our drivers are constantly under makes the situation more untenable. We operate trains and can only invest so much in security," she said.

She highlighted Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula's announcement earlier in the week that at the end of August, Prasa will be employing new companies for security who will be trained in the SA Police Service regime. She said that facilities at stations were being guarded by various security companies.
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