Vandals, thieves causing train overcrowding, delays - Metrorail

2017-08-24 22:48
Bonteheuwel Station at midday is unlike the chaos of rush hour (Jenni Evans, News24)

Bonteheuwel Station at midday is unlike the chaos of rush hour (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Metrorail has warned that, unless the crime and social problems that are spilling into its network are dealt with, all of its measures to replace carriages and build fences along railway lines will come to nothing.

Scenes in a picture doing the rounds on Tuesday show a train so crowded at Bonteheuwel Station, near Cape Town, that people were holding on to the roof.

"This illustrates the devastating effect of arson and vandalism on the region’s train fleet since October 2015," said Metrorail's Western Cape spokesperson Riana Scott in response to a query on why the train was so crowded.

"The loss of 101 train carriages, with an estimated replacement value of R312m, is the main contributor to the region operating with 60% of its fleet, punctuality dropping by more than 20%, and cancellations soaring," she said.

The company sounded the alarm earlier in August when it said it had to run short trains with fewer carriages as a result of the relentless damage to its fleets. This means Metrorail cannot transport as many people as it should.

"On-board vandalism has soared, with 60 to 70 carriages per month ending up back in workshops, having been stripped of copper wiring," she said.

Spending R68m on wall and fence

The company had just ordered 30km of cabling to keep up with the rate of theft, but it could not afford to keep doing this.

There was currently an "unprecedented" level of overcrowding on the trains because of the delays and the damage-induced short trains.

Metrorail said it urgently wants authorities to clamp down on scrap dealers who continue to pay thieves cash for copper wiring and scrap metal.

It is building a R68m wall and fence on both sides of the railway line in the Langa-Nyanga-Netreg triangle, where vandalism and theft are most prevalent, to keep people out of the operating area.

The first phase, between Nyanga and Lansdowne bridge, was completed at a cost of R5m.

This is part of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) plans to stabilise and recover service levels within two years.

They would accelerate the repairs of the damaged trains and recapitalise old and obsolete assets. They had also put steel caging over points systems that were on the ground and out in the open and had caged other machinery that was previously exposed.

Reward offered

Thieves were also partial to grid covers, track boxes, cable sockets, junction boxes and even train side panels and roofs, with the Bonteheuwel to Langa line one of the most targeted lines.

"However, unless the spiralling crime rate/gangsterism in these areas is not addressed decisively, any effort by us to fund further improvements will be in vain – we operate trains, we cannot be held solely responsible for reigning in unbridled crime spilling onto our network," said Scott.

"We, as a rail operator, cannot continue to accommodate the failure of society to deal with issues such as housing, electricity, employment, vagrancy and crime."

Metrorail is offering a R25 000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of vandals and thieves targeting their property.

This can be reported to: 

Read more on:    metrorail  |  cape town

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