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Dear Cape Metrorail - an open letter

31 January 2014, 10:01

I would like to apologise if you find the attached image to be of a sensitive nature. Please reserve your anger for Metrorail at having this image thrust into your mind and your disgust at the conditions that allowed for it to have been in existence. 

I wish to start this letter by explaining why I have taken to social media and News24 at all. I have tried and failed to get hold of Cape Metrorail five times. I have scoured the Facebook Page and seen nothing but complaints unanswered. I have spoken with several Metrorail employees about the situation I describe below and have been met with blank stares, laughing and have been told “you can complain if you want, but nothing will happen”.  At this time I feel it is necessary to air out some dirty laundry and see if there is any consequence for the blatant disrespect, abuse and neglect you as the service provider display to your customers on a daily basis. 

For some time I have been taking the train to and from work every day. For the most part, I find the service to be adequate. There have been many times that the trains have been delayed without any communication. However, I have been impressed with how quickly the schedule gets back on track (no pun intended) and today I will, for once, pick my battles.

While I have found the service to be adequate it is the conditions of the trains and stations that I find to be inadequate, if not intolerable. The trains are disgusting. The outsides covered in graffiti obscuring the first class and third class signs, important safety warnings and even the windows. The inside significantly worse - I am not surprised that people choose to travel between carriages or even on top of them. Anything to avoid spending your commute worried about where you are sitting and what you are inhaling! The walls are littered with graffiti and unidentifiable substances. The floors are sticky and the chairs, if not covered in graffiti, torn open. The windows are either broken open or jammed shut. There have been several instances where I have seen used condoms beneath the seats and in one instance a used needle. 

The stations are unkempt and littered with rubbish. Your staff frequently disobey the rules they assert as law to commuters. On a daily basis I see staff running across the tracks even during announcements warning against it, smoking on the platforms and lying across walk ways. However, in the instance that a commuter happens to be in the Metro Plus carriage instead of third class, all hell breaks loose. How such a commuter would even know the difference between the two classes I cannot fathom, as the conditions are no different.

How you can expect your customers, the commuters, the people who pay with their hard earned money to keep your service in effect when the conditions of the trains and stations are so appalling is beyond me. It does not take a leap of imagination to conceive why people do vandalise the carriages showing ill-respect for the service when on a daily basis we and your staff are met with blatant disrespect from you, the service provider.

This brings me to my point, at last. On Wednesday I was confronted with one of the more appalling things I have seen. I usually avoid using the station bathrooms at all costs, but unfortunately for me and now for you, that day was different. Contrary to popular belief, the bathrooms are kept relatively clean; however what the staff who clean those bathrooms have to put up with would test any person’s patience.

On Wednesday, just after 9am, I arrived at Kenilworth Station. I entered the bathroom and as I closed the door behind me I was confronted by blood dripping from the walls. I was utterly appalled and for once in my life, speechless. I am not sure whether the woman who cleans the bathrooms had not seen the blood or had  refused to clean it. Let it be known, that no one should be subjected to seeing that let alone have to clean it without the proper supplies and protection. I would not have touched that wall even if I had been paid to do so.

It is with this that I have officially had enough and I believe I am not alone in this. There are countless academic articles, research papers, speeches, news stories and testimonies which again and again put the Broken Window theory and theories like it to the test. To phrase it simply, if your surroundings look like sh*t you treat them like sh*t. When your surroundings are decrepit, dangerous and degrading you cannot be expected to abide by societal sanctions as it is clear that they do not apply there. If you clean up, police and maintain such surroundings the behaviour of inhabitants and users will improve. This is not rocket science. This is fact. I appeal to you Metrorail, get it together. Clean those trains, tidy those stations and treat your staff not to mention your commuters with at least some respect. Show respect, receive respect.

Metrorail commuters for the most part use your service out of necessity. This is why we fail to complain, this is why our voices are not heard and our complaints go unanswered. Today, regardless of this letter, I will have to use your service because I have no other choice. All we can ask is that you make it a less hostile environment. In a country where good news is hard to find and the headlines are filled with horror, rape, murder and corruption we need not be subjected to blood on the walls and used condoms under our feet. No one deserves that, especially not those who pay toward your salaries.

Sincerely,
Jessica

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