Power cuts risk disrupting Metrorail systems

Train services may be impacted by Eskom load shedding. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Train services may be impacted by Eskom load shedding. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Commuters who have largely been spared the most devastating effects of load shedding have been warned that train services could be disrupted by electricity supply problems.

Metrorail on Thursday warned commuters on Twitter that load shedding could affect public transportation systems.

While train services operate from a direct Eskom feed, making a sudden cut unlikely, many of the peripheral services may be affected by load shedding.

These may include signalling equipment, ticket machines and level crossing gates which run off municipal electricity supply.

But power supply problems would not be unprecedented in impacting Metrorail services.

In January 2015, trains were delayed for more than an hour when electricity supply failed between Midway, Nancefield, Kliptown, and Orlando in Gauteng.

Vandalism

According to data from the Metrorail weekly newsletter, at least 10% of trains are regularly cancelled which impacts on commuters getting to work.

While the company claims that it transports more than four million on a daily basis, it is not clear how many trains actually operate on specific lines.

The company also faces service challenges because of vandalism.

Both Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces are regularly hit by cable theft, which causes acute train delays.

It is not clear whether Metrorail's remedial actions serve to limit the likelihood of cable theft which can leave thousands of commuters stranded.

Train times mobile application GoMetro on Wednesday announced the expansion of its application with a button that will send an email to employers if workers are stranded on trains.

"Every time there is a delay or disruption to trains in the Western Cape, workers who are late need to stand in long queues in order to receive letters to give their employers in order not to receive written warnings," said Justin Coetzee, GoMetro CEO.

To remedy the acute shortage of rolling stock, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) announced in its annual report for 2012/2013 (the latest which is freely available) that it was embarking on an ambitious procurement programme.

"The 2012/13 Financial Year will go down in history as the year in which Prasa formally embarked on and completed the procurement process for the acquisition of a new fleet for its Metrorail services (Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme)," the organisation said the report.

Prasa intends to embark on a decade-long programme to acquire 7 224 new coaches from 2015.


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