Commuters battle train trouble.

A protest march against poor train service.

Train commuters from Khayelitsha to Kraaifontein are accusing Metrorail and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) of not doing enough to ensure their safety on trains.

They also criticised Prasa and Metrorail of failing to offer alternative transport in situations where trains are not running.

For several months Metrorail has been embroiled in a bitter battle to jack up its service, with trains often running later for up to an hour at times. They have also been forced in some instances to suspend their service due to vandalism, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

The entire rail service on the Central line was suspended after a security guard was gunned down at Chris Hani train station on January 9. Plans to reinstate the service on Wednesday January 17 were dealt another major blow with the derailment of a train and damage to some of Metrorail’s infrastructure between Netreg and Bonteheuwel.

According to Metrorail, its technicians were still carrying out repairs to infrastructure damaged by cable thieves. In an interview with Vukani, commuters expressed their dissatisfaction with Metrorail and the train service in general.

Zoliswa Dlamini, from Site B, said she lost her job because she was always late. She is now trying to get another job, but the suspension of the service on the Central line is making it impossible for her to travel.

“I am now unemployed. I was constantly late at work and my bosses decided to terminate my contract,” she said.

Ms Dlamini said a lot had to be done to restore people’s confidence in Metrorail. “Just recently there were reports that the service on our line will soon resume. What happened to that? We are still in limbo. I think a lot has to be done. People are now spending a lot of money on the buses and taxis,” she told Vukani.

Warren Johnson from Elsies River is also unemployed and blames Metrorail for his misfortune.

He said his train was always two hours or more late. He changed from a 6.30am train to an earlier one, but that did not help. “It was worse during peak hours,” he said.

Sikhonzele Mabhulu, from Kraaifontein, moaned about the lack of security and good management from Prasa. However, he has no choice but to use the trains.

“We are now spending a lot of money on buses and taxis. One must always have a few rands because you are not sure whether there will be a train or not,” he said.

Former train commuter Daphney Erosi said she stopped using a train the day she was robbed of her wallet.

She said on the day the train was full and she could hardly breathe. When she finally reached her destination she was without her wallet and all her cards.

“I would love to go back to the trains but one would have to convince me to do so.” Ms Erosi said the lack of trains had impacted badly on many people.

On Thursday January 18, Metrorail promised to address all train-related concerns, including building a 4-metre high wall along the tracks.