More cable theft stalls Cape Town trains ahead of safety strike

2019-07-25 12:11
Metrorail train. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Metrorail train. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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Thieves have struck again at Metrorail, this time carrying off rail springs and setting off severe delays on a busy Cape Town line on Thursday - as train worker unions gear up for a strike on Friday to demand urgent police and government action to end this.

Metrorail Western Cape spokesperson Riana Scott said the springs were stolen between Heideveld and Netreg on Thursday morning, causing severe delays. Some trains were terminated at Langa station.

Metrorail has struggled with a string of cable theft incidents and train fires, but hopes recent arrests will turn the tide.

"We are making progress with regard to the ongoing damage to essential infrastructure as you can see from yesterday's successes," said Scott.

On Wednesday, Metrorail welcomed the conviction and sentencing of seven people who stole and damaged essential rail infrastructure in Cape Town.

READ: Seven people convicted of cable theft, attempted theft in Cape Town

In Gauteng, cabling estimated to be worth R50 000 was allegedly found in possession of two people after Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) officials followed them to a scrap yard.

And, last Friday, an entire empty passenger train was hijacked and driven between eMkhomazi to Umgababa in KwaZulu-Natal - a distance of 12km. 

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has also vowed to crack down on corruption within Prasa that hampered services and the Western Cape government wants to control the province's rail network itself.

However, United National Transport Union spokesperson Sonja Carstens said any plans to improve or modernise services would be futile unless the country's 22 700km of rail infrastructure was treated as a national key point and guarded in the same way airports are. 

"The poorest of the poor are suffering," she said.

On Friday, the Federation of Unions of South Africa and the United National Transport Union are planning a shutdown of the running of commuter trains across the country in a National Day of Protest "against extremely poor and dangerous Metrorail passenger trains services".

The protest is intended to force the Presidency to declare the passenger rail service crisis a national disaster to facilitate the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to safeguard rail assets and help combat rampant railway crime.

Commuters to the east of the Cape Town CBD are already struggling with the suspension of the MyCiTi N2 Express Service to Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain due to a contractual impasse.

Prasa has indicated that it would run on a Saturday/Sunday timetable.

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Read more on:    metrorail  |  prasa  |  cape town  |  public transport
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