Crime on trains spurs action from union

Train driver Luyanda Qoyi.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) has called on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to establish an armed mobile reaction unit after armed robbers targeted commuters last week.

Luyanda Qoyi, train driver and chairman of Untu’s Prasa Tafelberg Branch, was standing just outside Bonteheuwel station on Tuesday August 15, at about 1.22pm, waiting for authority to pass signals, when three armed men approached the train and robbed the commuters of their valuables.

According to Untu spokeswoman, Sonja Carstens, one of Prasa’s protection officials, who was unarmed, risked his life to chase the robbers away.

The incident comes after Prasa appointed 56 armed guards to escort train drivers, as well as guards on the central line, after Untu approached the Western Cape High Court to force Prasa to provide protection for drivers.

Untu has since called for the establishment of an armed mobile reaction unit whose members would be stationed at Netreg, Mitchell’s Plain and Chris Hani stations on the central train line.

Untu also asked the court to order Prasa to establish a joint task team comprising the union, other representative unions and the police to develop a long-term strategy for commuter safety.

Recalling the robbery, Mr Qoyi said: “I am very traumatised by the incident. Today I am not driving a train without an armed guard present.

“My life is worth more than continuing to expose myself to these criminals.”

Ms Carstens said Mr Qoyi had noted that there had been no armed guards available to escort him when he had to leave with his train on route to Bellville.

She added that Mr Qoyi said he had not reported the latest incident as he believed “it is a waste of time reporting it as we already know nothing will be done about it”.

Bishop Lavis police station’s spokeswoman, Constable Samantha Adonis, said police were only responsible for patrolling the platforms, not the trains and that random patrols were conducted throughout the day during peak train times.

Both Prasa and Metrorail were contacted for a response, but by the time this edition went to print, they had not yet replied.