Commuters in agony

2020-01-30 06:01
Bongisizwe Mpondo, Prasa administrator addressing the media.PHOTO: SIYABONGA KALIPA

Bongisizwe Mpondo, Prasa administrator addressing the media.PHOTO: SIYABONGA KALIPA

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Train commuters using the Central line face at least eight more months of uncertainty, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has revealed.

Amid a spate of vandalism on the Central line, the parastatal opted to halt all its services of this line towards the end of last year. The move led to further vandalism including overhead train infrastructure. Cables in Khayelitsha have been completely cut down, casting serious doubts about the future of trains in the area.

Bongisizwe Mpondo, Prasa’s newly appointed national administrator, said their security has been severely compromised.

Addressing the media at a briefing at Isivivana centre, Mpondo said things went horribly wrong after the previous interim board cancelled an “irregular” security contract. He said their security and protection services were compromised and that led to a spike in vandalism.

Mpondo said the high level of vandalism has made it impossible to operate the line. He said they need to do a “proper job” in order to restore it.

“The key element is security because we fix the lines that have been vandalised, but the next day we still have the same problem,” said Mpondo.

He said they have six months, from now until June, to accelerate and execute their programmes to reinstate the Central line. They will then focus on commissioning certain projects and creating business for the community as well as for the next 12 months.

Mpondo said they plan to have some of the trains back in operation in September and for it to be fully operational in April next year. He said they have to be realistic in terms of what can happen when they are putting their plan together and not promise things they can’t do.

Mpondo said they are working with the police’s crime intelligence unit to try and understand the underlying factors regarding the vandalism of the train infrastructure. “Hopefully crime intelligence will unearth the real reason behind this because as we understand it is not just vandalism,” he said.

Organiser of the #unitedbehind, a coalition of about 17 civic organisations, Zukiswa Vuka said commuters on the Central line have been badly affected by the suspension of trains. “With the little money that people get now they have to make other alternatives to get to work which is expensive and that a lot of people lost their jobs,” she said.

Vuka said the September deadline set by Prasa means trains will not be operational for at least 11 months and commuters have not been offered any alternative.

“It is really not fair on commuters because they now have to stand in long queues and this not only affects them and Prasa but the economy as well,” she said.

Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) chair Ndithini Tyhido said the termination of services on the Central line is a big problem, particularly for people who need to go look for jobs. He said a lot of people also lost their jobs because of the poor rail service. He said they are not happy with the current train situation and they have their own plans to deal with the matter.

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