Prasa must keep its promises – #UniteBehind calls for 'delay repay' campaign

2018-10-04 22:57
Prasa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Prasa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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The #UniteBehind coalition has called on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to keep promises made to commuters, gathering about 200 members of the public to launch its #DelayRepay campaign.

The coalition held a rally at Cape Town train station on Thursday, as part of an extension to the #FixOurTrains campaign.

Members again called for Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to declare a national state of emergency over the state railway service.

READ: Nzimande slams DA for state of emergency call over trains

Only if such a proclamation were to occur, said member Zukiswa Vuka, would there be sufficient funds to address the "disastrous" situation at Prasa.

"Prasa has got a constitutional obligation. They must offer a service that is safe, that is working," said another member, Madoda Cuphe.

Cuphe said the poor service amounted to a "broken promise to commuters".

Daily delays of up to 60 minutes

Mawande Finini, a 31-year-old commuter who must travel by train to the city centre from Gugulethu, said the situation needed to change.

"I am here to support the commuters who are suffering as a result of Prasa not cooperating with the commuters," Finini said.

Finini himself faces delays of between 30 to 60 minutes on a daily basis as he commutes to work.

In order to be on time, he has to find alternative ways to get into town when trains are delayed or cancelled. 

This, he said, has taken a toll on his finances. On top of buying a monthly train ticket, Finini has to spend about R1 000 extra every month on other means of transport.

Cuphe reminded the crowd that many commuters lose their pay because they miss work. Students were also affected, he said.

#DelayRepay takes its name from a compensation system used by British railway companies to compensate commuters for late or cancelled trains. It is a system designed to attract commuters back to the rail service by providing them with greater financial security.

The organisers said the campaign sought to help both commuters and Prasa.

Help welcome

If commuters were reassured that their fares would be reimbursed when delays occur, those who "fear for their safety and are constantly stressed about delayed and cancelled trains" would no longer have to fork out extra money for alternative transport.

Commuters who have abandoned the Prasa service were also likely "to return and buy monthly tickets", which could mean saving Prasa from a "total financial collapse", said #UniteBehind.

Cuphe said Prasa's response – that they still needed funds to revamp the service – was not satisfactory.

Responding to the protest, Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said Prasa acknowledged the democratic right to peaceful protest about issues of concern and that this sentiment was echoed by Prasa Rail Acting CEO Martha Ngoye.

She said all efforts by stakeholders to help restore reliable train services were welcome and would be appreciated. She undertook to respond to #UniteBehind leaders on their request to extend the validity of monthly tickets within 48 hours.

Ngoye also reiterated that Prasa and Metrorail were trying their utmost to improve service levels and working hard to remove obstacles that continue to scupper reliability and predictability.

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Read more on:    metrorail  |  prasa  |  blade nzimande  |  public transport

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