Vandals target station

2020-02-11 06:00
Wires hang from vandalised electricity boxes at Wittebome railway station.

Wires hang from vandalised electricity boxes at Wittebome railway station.

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While arrivals and departures are to be expected at a railway station, you would think this refers to trains and not its infrastructure.

But it seems there is no limit to what, and how often, equipment will be swiped from them.

Riana Scott, the spokesperson for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in the region, says anything with a second-hand value that can be sold for cash is at risk of being stolen.

“The export of secondhand metal is a multi-billion Rand industry with insatiable markets in China and India. As long as there is demand, copper-dependent service industries will be targeted,” she says.

This type of vandalism impacts train punctuality, reliability and availability.

“Because safety is of primary concern, we are often forced to delay, slow, short-turn or cancel trains, leading to customer dissatisfaction,” she says.

Recognising the impact this has on passengers, the government has elevated metal theft to damage to essential infrastructure.

“Charges under this means stricter bail conditions and heavier jail sentences for those found guilty,” Scott explains.

Wynberg resident Jeanette Stoffels informed People’s Post of the deteriorating state of Wittebome railway station.

On the evening of Tuesday 21 January, she noticed the Bega Square subway lights were no longer working. Wynberg police has confirmed there had been quite a few incidents at Wittebome railway station.

“The station is in total darkness and, besides the subway lights, it appears the only other light which is still in working order on platform two is also affected.”

Stoffels said electrical wires were hanging from the ceiling where light fixtures used to be and from empty electrical boxes.

The next day, Stoffels inquired at the ticket kiosk if the faulty lights had been reported. The woman manning the booth told her no such incident had been reported.

Stoffels followed up her query with an email to “relevant people” on Thursday 23 January and a call to Transport Customer Care on Monday 27 January, but with no response.

On Thursday 30 January, Stoffels contacted People’s Post, saying the subway lights were back on.

“Although not all of the other lights are working and the electrical box has just been covered with blue plastic,” she said.

Scott said they had taken note of the reader’s concerns. She said the turn-around time on repairs depends on each entity, but it was generally prioritised based on risk and urgency.

“We urge residents to report all incidents and suspicious behaviour so that these may be recorded and included in the analyses,” Scott said.

Stoffels said she was still concerned about security.

“I was told the station has 24-hour security but its almost unbelievable that there is security at all judging by the number of people smoking drugs on Prasa property during the day. Where are these ‘securities’ when the station’s infrastructure is being destroyed,” she asks.

Scott says the deployment of security resources is based on crime pattern and crime trend analyses informed by reported crimes.

Prasa’s Protection Services work in collaboration with the City’s rail enforcement unit, provincial police stations, the Metrorail rapid rail response unit, improvement districts and neighbourhood watches.

“Each law enforcement agency is legally assigned certain powers and responsibilities – they cannot be all things to all people hence the need for collaboration. Contracted security forms are contractually performance bound and subject to penalties for proven non-performance,” Scott says.

  • To report a crime, call the Metrorail Protection Services hotline on 021 449 4336/5056, Crime Stop on 0860 10111 or send an SMS to the crime line on 32211.

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