- Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has taken the first train ride in nearly three years on Cape Town's Central Line, marking the partial reopening of the service.
- The crucial Central Line was closed in 2019 due to theft, vandalism and the erection of shacks on railway land.
- Mbalula warned the Prasa management to ensure that the service continued to run smoothly.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, flanked by his Western Cape counterpart, Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell, marked the partial resumption of the train service on Cape Town's Central Line.
The railway line was closed in 2019 due to theft and vandalism, forcing hundreds of thousands of train commuters to find alternative modes of transport.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) said restoration of services on the Central Line will be done in phases.
Mbalula on Tuesday boarded train T9007 from Cape Town Station to Langa station to assess the progress made.
"We want the trains to run. I'm happy that the service is back, but I'm not happy about what's going to happen when I'm gone. I have no guarantee that this thing is being run professionally and properly by the right people. I'm not convinced," he said.
A TRAIN RIDE ON THE CENTRAL LINE AS SERVICES RESUMES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS.We are excited that the central line is coming back. I must emphasize that the leadership to ensure that trains are on time and infrastructure is in place is required. pic.twitter.com/03Vpn8OFSX— FIKILE MBALULA | MR FIX (@MbalulaFikile) July 26, 2022
Mbalula said he wanted to see first-hand that the service was running smoothly. He said he was happy that the railway line had been reopened, but added that he was still concerned.
"I'm here to see whether the service is running and whether it's running on time. We are here to showcase our trains so that people can see there [is] proper security and that this service is safe for passengers. Trains must be clean and safe for commuters," he said.
Mbalula issued a stern warning to Prasa management after they highlighted the challenges they had experienced.
"We are here to ensure that the trains must be clean for passengers because someone has a job to do, and all these issues that have been raised with me must be fixed or else I will chop your head," he said jokingly.
The Central Line is a crucial railway line servicing commuters from both Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. The line extends from Cape Town Station to Kapteinsklip in Mitchells Plain, and Chris Hani Station in Khayelitsha.
Earlier this year, Prasa indicated that repairs to the Central Line had cost just less than R2 billion.
Prasa had been working with the City of Cape Town, the Housing Development Agency and the Department of Public Works, among other stakeholders, to remove people who had illegally built shacks on and along the Central Line in Langa, as well as Eerste River.
Prasa said in a statement the partial resumption of the Central Line service was a major milestone.
The rail agency said:
MEC Mitchell said the smooth operation of the rail service was crucial.
"Restoring the rail service in the Western Cape is a top priority. Rail was once the backbone of public transport in the city (Cape Town), transporting over 600 000 passengers per day," he added.