Lives on the line

Commuters engage in risky behaviour due to train delays.

The Public Transport Voice (PTV) is calling on rail authorities to improve services, following weeks of mayhem and delays in the train service.

Metrorail , a division of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), has admitted that the old and poor condition of its rolling stock and infrastructure impact negatively on its ability to deliver quality services to customers.

Cancellations and train delays have become a regular occurrence in recent weeks, affecting tens of thousands of commuters.

The few trains that run are often overcrowded, yet commuters often scramble to get on board despite the risks associated with full carriages.

Platforms, particularly at Cape Town station, have become exercise grounds, with commuters

running up and down during afternoon peak hour, with train times and schedules changing on a regular basis.

With no end in sight ,the PTV is now calling on the rail agency to jack up its services or come up with an alternative transport system.

In an interview with Vukani, PVT spokesman Mike Hamnca said there were fears that the situation would continue, particularly on the central lines (Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha).

“We want them to get things right. People are losing their jobs. The truth is many people cannot afford taxi fares, so they depend squarely on Metrorail. It is up to the company to see to it that people get to work on time. We have pupils that use the trains. It becomes difficult for them, especially during examinations. We are sick and tired of this unprofessional behaviour from Metrorail. It has to stop,” said an angry Mr Hamnca.

He said people have showed enough patience with the rail company. “What makes things bad is that Metrorail does not provide any alternative transport,” he said.

In the past, he said, people were provided with buses whenever there were challenges. “We need to know what happened to that,” he said. “People are paying on the trains, so they expect a good service. If they cry about vandalism, why can’t they deploy more security to the hot spots? They should stop playing with people,” he said.

Commuters who spoke to Vukani said they have had enough as they rely solely on Metrorail to travel to and from work. They said the delays have devastating effects on their jobs.

Commuter Mike Mahe said he blamed Metrorail for not communicating with commuters.”It does not help to speak about trains and delays. I feel these people do not really care about the commuters. You would sit in the train for 30 minutes to an hour, and after that you would hear that the trains have been changed to other destinations. It sucks. They do not even explain to us the reasons for the delays.We are clueless as to why we have such delays,” he said, adding that for the past month things have been particularly bad.

Another commuter Zameka Rhangula, from Nyanga, said she was fed up with delays. She said there were times when people had to walk long distances to their destinations. “Walking from Netreg station to Nyanga is not child’s play. People could be robbed along the way.

“We are always late for work and our bosses are tired of excuses. As you enter your workplace, before you even open your mouth, the boss goes ‘the train was late’. You can tell these people are sick and tired of the excuse,” she said.

Metrorail’s acting head: marketing and communication Daphne Kayster said they have been experiencing an increase in vandalism. She said the areas affected mainly are Nolungile, Heideveld, Netreg, Bonteheuwel and Bishop Lavis stations.

She said theft and vandalism of train assets, mainly cables and other metal-bearing components have a major impact on train punctuality and reliability on the central line.”The impact of the above has generally led to poor operational performance resulting from the reliability of rolling stock and infrastructure, overcrowding on many corridors at peak periods, slow journey times especially compared to other modes of transport and operational safety risks mitigated by imposition of speed restrictions which extend journey times,” she said.

Ms Kayster also blamed other issues like gang activity, illegal electricity connections, stone throwing and rail reserve encroachment that make the central line most prone to delays. She said they were working on a solution for all the hot spots.