Commuters suffer as trains remain off the tracks

Simcelile Mbenge.

The indefinite suspension of Metrorail’s Central line is having a severe impact on commuters as they are forced to seek alternative ways of travelling.

Since the trains were suspended more than a month ago, Golden Arrow Buses, MyCiTi buses and taxis have been under severe pressure to transport thousands of workers and students around the metro and beyond.

Most transport hubs have turned into chaotic scenes with passengers jostling to get into taxis or buses.

In some parts of the metro, including Cape Town CBD, the lines of bus and taxi commuters resemble those of people waiting to vote in the 1994 general elections.

Commuters have had to find ways to beat the lines and get home early.

On Monday February 12, Vukani took to the streets to hear from commuters what impact the suspension of the train line has had on them.

Among other things, commuters complained that some people were jumping queues, leading to heated arguments and physical fights.

Simcelile Mbenge, of Makhaza, said it took him longer than usual to get to work. He has been forced to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier to catch a taxi from Makhaza to Site C, where he takes another taxi to his work in Athlone. He said since the trains stopped running there had been a surge in passenger numbers.

He said people might start fighting because everyone wants to be the first to get into the taxi. “I appeal to the government to fix the issue of trains. People are going to lose their jobs because of this. The whole Metrorail service needs to be completely overhauled,” he said.

Another commuter, Wongile Sinopolo, from Endlovini, said there are three bus stops before his and while before he would get a seat, the bus is now full by the time it reaches him.

He is forced to stand from Khayelitsha to Athlone. He is now considering waking up earlier to try to get a seat on the bus. Another commuter, Sharon Dlamini, from Harare, said she works in Somerset West. She uses a taxi to get to work and said there are not enough to accommodate everyone.

“I used to wake up at 6am, but now I have to wake up at 5.15am and by 6am I need to be at the taxi rank. My child is studying in town and I have received numerous complaints from the school that she is often late. I hope and pray that the trains get back soon. I no longer have the energy to assist my children with their school work because I reach home too late, and I have to cook and clean the house,” she said.

Fuzile Yilo commutes from Khayelitsha to town, one of the busiest routes. He said he has always been using the taxis but has been forced to wake up earlier because of the long queues.

He said catching a taxi on a Friday afternoon was a nightmare.

He said people queue for up to two hours. He said the taxis and buses did not have the capacity to accommodate everyone.

He said he hoped that the issue would be resolved soon.