Cape Town – Travellers on board a Shosholoza Meyl train from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg on 4 January 2016 were left traumatised after “spending 31 hours with no water and food on the entire train”.
Sandra Nagel, a 65-year-old passenger, told Traveller24 the train left Port Elizabeth at 15:15 on 3 January 2016, and was scheduled to arrive in Johannesburg at 11:30 on 4 January - an expected trip of roughly 20 hours.
After a horrific ordeal, which involved being stranded in the Great Karoo during a heatwave for hours, their train only arrived in Johannesburg around 22:30 on the night of the 4 January.
Nagel says she knew there would be trouble as soon as they left Port Elizabeth station saying, “When we were three minutes out of the station, the train cut out for the first time."
She describes how the train came to a screeching, jerking halt, which “felt like the brakes were locking“. This motion, she says, went on for the entire trip, until they reached Johannesburg a day and a half later.
In a video clip taken by Nagel, the screeching sound she describes is audible. Nagel says this sound was heard throughout the entire 31-hour-long trip from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg.
See the video clip here: 31-Hour-Long Shosholoza Meyl Train Ride Cause Holiday Headache
Later on they would “smell a burning smell every time before the train jerked to a stop," Nagel says.
"[The train] wasn’t roadworthy. People were screaming from the compartments, because they were thrown around every time the breaks would kick in.”
She says the conditions in the carriages were as horrible. “There was no water on the train, and the toilets weren’t flushing. The toilet in our compartment was filled to the top with toilet paper,” she said.
On the entire journey, no access to water or food was provided.
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Most astonishingly, the passengers were not allowed to get off to buy water and food when the train made a stop in Bloemfontein eventually.
“The people were starting to get sick. Tummies started running because people were suffering from heat stroke,” Nagel says.
The train trip from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg wasn't the only Shosholoza Meyl service delivery failure in the past week.
Dispatch Live reported on Tuesday, 5 January, that thirsty travellers rushed off a Prasa-operated train to get to the taps at Stutterheim station after their train had been delayed for hours in a heatwave without access to any food or water.
On this train too, toilets stopped flushing, passengers said.
The report states scores of children were screaming and suffering from diarrhoea, as they ran out of water supplies and were suffering from heat stroke.
To make matters on the PE - Johannesburg trip worse, Nagel says, "the manager on the train didn’t communicate or offer any assistance".
“When I approached her to ask what was going on, she said she had nothing to do with it.”
Nagel also says they "tried calling the [Shosholoza Meyl] offices on a number of occasions, but nobody answered".
Nosipho Mancotywa, Eastern Cape area operations manager for Shosholoza Meyl told Traveller24 she isn't aware of any complaint regarding the lack of water on the trains.
Regarding the lengthy delays, Mancotywa confirmed the issue. She told Traveller24 "the signals were not working, because the electricity was off in the Cradock municipality, where the biggest delays were experienced". The trains cannot function without electricity, Mancotywa says.
Nagel told Traveller24 that she was “still suffering from the heat stroke”, three days after the trip she had had to endure.
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