Booms take a knock

2019-11-12 06:01
Residents say the boom at the station must be replaced urgently. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

Residents say the boom at the station must be replaced urgently. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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The booms at Kenilworth Station have been a bone of contention since it stopped working towards the end of last year.

And the hits just keep on coming, literally.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says the booms have repeatedly been vandalised since the upgraded system, which include new trackside equipment, booms and LED flashlights, became active on 4 August (“Booms get green light”, People’s Post, 20 August).

“The technicians have repaired and declared it safe every time,” Scott says.

The level crossing is closed during peak hours – 06:20 to 08:20 and 17:00 to 18:15.

Community activist Henk Egberink speculates that frustrated motorists caught in peak-hour traffic might be to blame.

“The congestion along Wetton and Imam Haron roads is a nightmare. There are quite a few motorists who are taking chances and forcing their cars past the booms,” Egberink says.

The reopening of the booms at peak times is a suggestion supported by many residents.

A change.org petition, started by Harfield resident Amrain Ismail-Essop about six weeks ago, has, at the time of going to press, garnered the support of 1 200 people, and counting.

In his online petition, Ismail-Essop says traffic congestion was greatly reduced during the time that the booms were out of commission.

“We would like the booms at Kenilworth to be reopened and safely manned during peak times. While we do understand that trains carry many of our fellow citizens to work daily, we do see that there is more than enough time between trains, to be able to reopen the crossing for motorists and pedestrians,” he writes.

Sharon Cottle, the councillor for ward 58, says in a recent letter to Richard Walker, Prasa’s Western Cape regional manager – on behalf of the External Stakeholders Engagement Meeting – Walker was urged to look at all possible options for the operation of the Kenilworth railway station booms during peak traffic hours.

She says while the opening of the booms may to some extent reduce congestion during peak hours in Kenilworth, this should not be addressed in isolation.

She says they are waiting on a response from Prasa.

“I have appealed to them to undertake a risk assessment of all options and to reassess the closing times,” says Cottle.

Ian Iversen, councillor for ward 59, says he has emailed George Kiewiets, Metrorail special project manager for the Western Cape, regarding the peak-hour closures, asking him to bring the following to the attention of Prasa’s management.

“About 20 or 30 years ago, trains used to run every 15 minutes or so. Then it was understandable that the booms would be down for extended periods. Now trains might come through every 30 minutes.” 

Iversen says there is a person in the control tower who could open and close the gates when “the coast is clear”. 

“It seems no consideration has been given to the requests from the extended community,” he says.

At present, the Western Cape region has the most level crossings in the country – 43. 

Scott says Prasa has committed to a level crossing elimination programme where all existing level crossings will, in time, be replaced by either overhead bridges or underpasses. 

In terms of the original agreement between the City and Prasa at the time, the Kenilworth level crossing was to have been closed on completion of the Stanhope Road bridge in Claremont. 

“Both parties have not pursued the matter but the tacit agreement to keep it open despite the original intent may have to be reconsidered and expedited in light of the elimination strategy,” Scott says.

Iversen is doubtful that the building of a bridge will be on the cards any time soon.

“I don’t think Prasa has the funds needed to construct either a bridge or an underpass. I trust that position is not going to change,” he says.

Public participation regarding the elimination of the Buttskop Road level crossing in Blackheath is being undertaken by the City currently. This has been the site of two deadly train/vehicle crashes in which 17 people lost their lives.

Cottle emphasises that public safety is the most important consideration.

“Traffic congestion during peak hours is a city-wide occurrence and is one of the realities of a growing metropole. I urge motorists exercise patience and caution at all times and especially when approaching any railway crossing,” she says.

Scott urged road users not to tamper with the booms. Trains operate on fixed infrastructure; they are unable to take evasive action during emergencies.

A full train will take up to 500 metres to stop under emergency conditions.

“Trains as mass transport mode legally have right of way at level crossings. It is advisable that road users heed road traffic signs and safety protocol on approach of level crossings,” she says.

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