Safety concerns keeps Cape Town train line closed

2018-01-16 21:42
A Metrorail train in Cape Town. (File, Bernard Chiguvare, GroundUp)

A Metrorail train in Cape Town. (File, Bernard Chiguvare, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - Metrorail's Cape Town central line was still closed on Tuesday as train drivers stood their ground and refused to drive, leaving passengers stranded. This comes after the murder of a security guard in Khayelitsha last week.

"The drivers are still refusing," said United National Transport Union (UNTU) general secretary Steve Harris.

A 50-year-old security guard was killed during a robbery last Tuesday at Chris Hani station, Makhaza, Khayelitsha.

READ: 'It has become a warzone': Train drivers refuse to work on Cape Flats central line

Police are investigating the incident but, in the meantime, drivers have said the route is too dangerous for them and their passengers in the current circumstances.

A Metrorail service announcement on Tuesday read: "Central line service remains suspended following the recent safety-related incident at Chris Hani.

"Regrettably, Metrorail has no buses to offer as alternative transport and commuters are advised to arrange their own transport until further notice. However, Metrorail monthly/weekly ticket holders may utilise Golden Arrow buses in the off-peak: between 08:30 and 15:00 and from 18:00 onward."

In addition, there were delays on other lines due to manual authorisation, vandalism, theft of cables and sand on the tracks.

These developments come amid increasing concern over the state of the rail service as the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), tries to modernise its fleet and manage leadership change and accusations of impropriety.

Metrorail is owned by Prasa, which is a state-owned enterprise. It falls under the Department of Transport.

Harris said UNTU had a meeting planned with Prasa for Wednesday and would consider its position on the central line after that.

Comment from Prasa was not immediately available.

READ: Rail safety regulator bans manual signal changes

In the meantime, the City of Cape Town's transport department called for an urgent rail summit to stop the collapse of rail transport around the city.

This was revealed in response to a request for an update on its proposal to take over the running of Metrorail in its jurisdiction.

"The City is determined to rescue urban rail and to restore it to what it has been and should be: the backbone of public transport in Cape Town," said Councillor Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development for the City of Cape Town.

Over December and January, Herron travelled on different lines to see the extent of deterioration since his previous trips, and he noted that some services were cancelled for days on the central line.

"The resultant traffic congestion was horrendous, with reports that the highways were only free flowing for two hours in the middle of the day. We cannot allow this to become the norm," said Herron.

Herron said the City's transport department has already received approval from the council to develop a "Rail Plan" that seeks to investigate the phased takeover of rail functions over the next several years. 

A mammoth task

"However, this is a mammoth task and it will not happen overnight," said Herron.

"A plan is in motion to approach National Government for the necessary approvals and funding for taking over commuter rail in an incremental and structured manner," he said.

The Rail Safety Regulator has meanwhile lifted its ban issued to Prasa over the manual authorisation of train operations, subject to certain conditions.

The ban was put in place after a train crashed into the back of another in the Geldenhuys area, in Johannesburg, injuring about 200 people last Tuesday.

Metrorail did not abide by the instruction to not do manual authorisation, pending consultations with the regulator.

Days before that, 19 people were killed when a train smashed in to a truck trailer near Kroonstad, in the Free State.

Read more on:    metrorail  |  cape town  |  transport

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