Metrorail is failing us, say school pupils who miss classes daily

2018-02-16 07:32
Learners arrive late at school daily because of problems with Cape Town’s trains. (Tariro Washinyira, GroundUp)

Learners arrive late at school daily because of problems with Cape Town’s trains. (Tariro Washinyira, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - Cape Town pupils are missing school lessons daily because of problems with trains. But there's no "quick fix", says Metrorail.

On the northern line at Parow station, pupils wait from 06:30 to get to schools in Maitland, Salt River, Cape Town and the southern suburbs, according to a GroundUp report.

They are often late. Trains are cancelled, delayed and often stop between stations. Sometimes, when the trains come after a delay, the carriages are so full that the children are unable to board.

READ: Metrorail suspends all train services on Cape Town central line

Questioned by GroundUp on Tuesday, four pupils from Salt River High School said most of the time they missed at least the first two periods of their school day.

They had to borrow other pupils' books to copy the work they had missed. On Tuesday, they arrived in Salt River at 09:30, even though they had been waiting for a train since 07:00.


A Grade 8 pupil said she was scared to go to her teachers to ask questions about the subjects she had missed.

She said the teachers seemed not to understand the problems with the trains. Pupils were scolded for being late and sent to detention in the afternoons after school.

A Grade 12 pupil said she had been late for school every day last week. She said she did not feel safe on the train and had seen people being robbed.

"My parents are concerned about the way trains have been operating on the northern line, but we do not have a choice. Trains are affordable. I pay R150 for the whole month for a train ticket, compared to a taxi fare of R13 daily per trip."

"My parents can't afford busses or taxis. I am also embarrassed that, as head girl, I need to be exemplary, but I am doing the opposite… all because of the trains. Metrorail have let us down."

When GroundUp took the northern line from Salt River on Tuesday afternoon, there were people drinking, playing cards and smoking marijuana. There were no security guards or police to be seen.

Commuters using the Century City line and the southern line also complained about bad service.

GroundUp asked Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott if Metrorail was fixing problems on the northern, southern and Century City lines. (The train service on the central line is suspended.)

'No quick fix'

Scott answered: "[The] Western Cape is operating at 60% capacity, having lost 101 carriages to arson and vandalism since October 2015. As a result, punctuality and reliability have declined, forcing many desperate commuters to spill into MetroPlus carriages. The region has only 54 train sets to service a timetable designed for 84 train sets, hence the many cancellations."

"There is no quick fix to repair a system left to deteriorate over 50 years."

Scott said R172bn had been allocated to modernise the entire rail system over 20 years. New trains for Cape Town were expected by 2019 - 2020.

"We have recognised that trip durations are longer due to safe operational alternatives that have to be instituted," she said.

"Like motorists, train users will unfortunately have to rise earlier to get to work/school on time."

On security, Scott said Metrorail was collaborating with police.

"Police/security cannot be everywhere at once - instead they are posted according to predetermined priority areas," she said.

Noncedo Madubedube of Equal Education (EE) Western Cape and Sinekhaya Mbengo (EE City Bowl) say the organisation is collecting testimonies from pupils.

"What we can say from engaging with [pupils], is that there are a lot of [pupils] affected. This becomes a financial burden for their families because trains are the cheapest and most convenient mode of transport."

"Metrorail does not seem to have adequate security personnel, which means [pupils] travelling too early or late because there aren't enough trains running can be robbed and assaulted while waiting for trains."

"[Pupils] also get home late and are unable to effectively do their homework and catch up on missed class time."

Read more on:    metrorail  |  cape town  |  public transport

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