Trasport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela has expressed relief at the plan that was presented last Thursday in Langa by Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula and asked for patience from those who would use Metrorail’s Central Line.
With mounting concerns over the suspended Central Line rail service, Mr Mbalula said the refurbishment of the line as announced in the State of the Nation Address would start on Thursday.
Just last month, hundreds of people marched to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) offices and Parliament calling on the government to fix the country’s transport system, including the Central Line in Cape Town.
Mr Mbalula’s launch follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise in his 2020 State of the Nation address to allocate R1.4 billion to bring the Central Line back into working order.
Last Thursday, Mr Mbalula led a delegation that included Deputy Minister of Transport Dikeledi Magadzi, Mr Madikizela, and Prasa administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo.
He announced the start of the refurbishment process for the Central Line, which has been closed since October 2019. The Central Line serves over a million people, running from Kapteinsklip station in Mitchell’s Plain and Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha to Cape Town station.
Speaking to Vukani after the launch, Mr Madikizela welcomed the plan outlined by Mr Mpondo who promised a partial resumption of service on the Central Line between September and November 2020.
“The residents of the Western Cape need a functioning train service that will allow them to access opportunities, to get to and from work and visit loved ones. We need to do everything possible to ensure this happens,” he said.
The Central Line, a corridor from Cape Town train station to Chris Hani in Khayelitsha with a connecting line from Philippi towards Kapteinsklip in Mitchell’s Plain was suspended in November 2019 due to unprecedented theft and vandalism of signaling and electrical infrastructure.
Prasa said the overhead lines between Bonteheuwel and Nyanga, Philippi, Stock Road, Khayelitsha, Chris Hani and Philippi, and Mitchell’s Plain stations have been stripped and stolen.
This means about 220 000 train commuters have been left stranded and forced to use alternative transport.
Prasa has unveiled that over the next six months, they will deal with infrastructure rehabilitation which includes building four-metre high concrete walls to protect infrastructure and demarcate the rail reserve; installing security cameras and security technology to assist with crime prevention and response; restoring and or rebuilding sub-stations that have been damaged by vandalism; replacing overhead electrical lines and completing a modern re-signaling project.
“I am very happy with the progress that has been made thus far. This is a clear indication of what the government can achieve if we put our differences aside and work in the spirit of cooperative governance and intergovernmental relations. We are willing to play our part in fixing this, we can help get things done,” said Mr Madikizela.
He said the team led by the administrator, the Department of Transport and Public Works and the City of Cape Town have done a sterling job so far. “I will be keeping a very close eye on progress made because I am eager to see the Central Line to be in full operation so that the commuters can again enjoy the services of this very important transport mode. This is a huge relief to our commuters who are now forced to dig deep into their pockets and pay for other modes of transport that are more expensive than the train (fare),” he said.
He said he was also concerned about the road congestion caused by the dysfunctional system.
He said the province’s economy was also massively impacted.
“We need to move with speed to ensure that services are installed as promised, and I will be keeping a very close eye on this as our residents need a functioning rail service, sooner rather than later.”
Commuters that spoke to Vukani expressed dissatisfaction with what they said were unfulfilled promises.
Nobantu Dele from Philippi said she would only believe the promises when the trains were moving.
“Unfortunately, I have heard more promises than acts. This is not the first time we are promised that trains are coming. Maybe elections are closer that is why they have this launch,” she said.
Lulamile Ziko from eNkanini, Khayelitsha, said: “Maybe this time trains will be back. But I have doubts and I have reason to have such doubts,” he said.