Load shedding, vandalism wreak havoc on Metrorail train services across Cape Town

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Metrorail trains outside Cape Town station.
Metrorail trains outside Cape Town station.
PHOTO: Jonathan Lestrade/Son
  • It was touch and go for Cape Town's train service on Wednesday because of load shedding.
  • The provincial Department of Transport says this is undermining the stability of the service.
  • The situation has been compounded by vandalism.

Train commuters in Cape Town had to keep their fingers crossed during load shedding on Wednesday as Metrorail worked to keep systems up and running.

On Tuesday, services had to be cancelled because of vandalism at the Tafelbaai high voltage substation, on top of load shedding.

It was not the first time the substation had been targeted. In December, it was set alight.

The Western Cape's Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell said commuters spent time and money to make up for an unreliable service, and added that it was undermining the Passenger Rail Agency of SA's (Prasa) efforts to keep commuter services going.

He called on Prasa and the national Department of Transport to "do what is necessary" to protect rail assets for the sake of commuters.

READ | Prasa to include MK veterans as rail corridor coordinators in safety revamp

"It can no longer be that commuters have to pay for the continuous failures of state-owned entities," he said.

Metrorail said the vandalism knocked power out across the region and although operations were largely restored, problems may persist.

Metrorail said: 

We are far from full capacity, and the expected load shedding will have an impact on corridor service delivery. We may still have some delays and cancellations, but we will keep you updated throughout the day.

Prasa is in the process of training security guards drawn from veterans of uMkhonto we Sizwe to protect the rail network. It was also adding new trains to make up for those destroyed by arsonists.

Cape Town Central station was also being expanded.

Vandalism, theft

During a presentation to the Western Cape legislature in February, Prasa explained that there were 444 train trips on 13 lines in the Western Cape in June 2019.

Before lockdown in 2020, this went down to 220, and by February 2022, it dropped to 150, running on six lines.

In March, the Railway Safety Regulator granted Metrorail a certificate to run the new Electric Motor Units on the Southern Line at peak and off-peak times.

The issues faced include having to relocate people living on a railway line in Langa.

The main reasons for train delays were said to be vandalism of signal systems, and the introduction of new rolling stock.

Cancellations were typically caused by theft of lines, sand on the lines due to wind in the Fish Hoek and Simon's Town areas, and vandalism of electrical supply.




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