Train delays, derailments and passenger congestion could soon be a thing of the past if the newly-appointed acting chief executive officer of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Cromet Molepo has his way.
He has promised to resolve issues of derailment and crime on the trains.
The service, particularly on the embattled Central line, is constantly suspended due to theft and vandalism of infrastructure.
Prasa admitted that the Central line was located in a high-crime area. He said this made the construction of fences along the tracks necessary.
In its turnaround strategy plan, Metrorail in the province said it will soon break ground on a R68 million project to build a 20km stretch of wall along its train infrastructure on its two Khayelitsha routes.
Speaking to media on Thursday January 18 in Netreg, where a sub’station was damaged and vandalised, Mr Molepo said one of his first priorities would be to tackle the vandalism of trains.
He said an average of 80 coaches are targeted across the country every month either due to protests or frustration.
He said a lack of communication had also led to anger among commuters, and that Metrorail would have to regain people’s confidence in the service.
“We will be doing things differently. We will work aggressively and we will avoid the current congestion. We will make lives difficult for thieves and criminals. We will also be going to the communities to speak to them about crime. We will also bring back more coaches so that we can avoid congestion,” he said.Another development will be the cancellation of contract security.Mr Molepo said they will work with police to combat crime.
“We will also be introducing radios where there will be proper communication. We will also be introducing a Metro App so that people on their cellphones can get information. We will also have a similar system where we communicate with employers in terms of train movements, if there are any undue delays,” he said.
The Central line has been out of operation for two weeks, leaving commuters in the lurch.
The line was affected for the first time this year when the Netreg sub-station was vandalised on Tuesday January 2. The Central line was then suspended after United National Transport Union (UNTU) members refused to work on the line following the fatal shooting of an armed security escort at Chris Hani train station in Khayelitsha on Tuesday January 9.
As the new school year started last Wednesday, Metrorail planned to have the line up and running but was once again crippled after a test train derailed between Heideveld and Netreg stations.
There had also been cable theft and vandalism at sub-stations in Bonteheuwel and Nyanga.
Non-governmental organisations, workers’ union and government departments and civic organisations welcomed the new plans for the train service.
National head of Railway police Michael Mohlala said they were prepared to deal with what he called organised crime. He also sent out a stern warning to second-hand goods dealers who boughtstolen train parts.
Members of Untu and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) also committed themselves to the plan and said their members ready to hit the ground.
Provincial MEC of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant also welcomed the move by Prasa. He said the only way to deal with the problem was to analyse it properly and have a good approach. He said it seemed the parastatal has done so.
“My concern is the damage to the lives of people that some some could not go to work or lost work. We now have to get the confidence of the people back. Safety of people and workers in of importance,” he said.
He warned that people should not expect the changes to happen over night. But not everyone was impressed with the nnouncement. Members of Unite Behind protested outside the meeting, saying the Mr Molapo was not fit to run the parastatal. They also accused Prasa of not being willing to work with them.