Train commuter Manga Mdunyiswa from Gugulethu says he spends almost half of his monthly income just on travelling costs from home to work and that means he is unable to meet some of his family’s basic needs.
However, he has welcomed the reopening of the Central line at Langa and Nyanga.
This comes after the Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga and delegates from the provincial government boarded a train from Nyanga to Cape Town station at 6am on Tuesday April 4 to assess the work done to recover rail infrastructure and stations on the Central line.
The line had been inactive for years due to vandalism, cable theft and land invasion at several stations including Langa and Philippi.
Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) group CEO, Hishaam Emeran, said they were officially launching the service from Nyanga via Langa to Cape Town.
He said the train that everyone took travelled at 30km an hour and one of the key improvements they need to make is to increase that speed.
He said they had to completely rebuild the line and had to operate at a safe speed for now, however, in the next month or so, travelling times would improve.
There had been no tracks left in Nyanga and Prasa had to rebuild these from scratch so at the moment the trains are operating on a single rail line.
By the end of the month, he said, they are planning to stop at Heideveld station and bring the second line on.
“On the Central line today, we have invested over R600 million and that was to bring back the line between Langa and Pinelands, the line from Langa to Bellville via UWC and Pentech – and then the section from Langa to Nyanga.
“That money has mainly been used on our electrical infrastructure and tracks as we had to rebuild them.
“If we are investing to bring the entire Central line (back), we would be doubling that amount in terms of bringing trains to Chris Hani and Mitchell’s Plan.
“We are also looking at the walling and fencing the infrastructure in an effort to protect the assets and communities.
“We have increased security personnel and we will deploy them on the corridors and their physical presence on our stations has increased as well,” he said.
Asked if load shedding will affect the train operation, he said they have backup generators.
Before the train resumed, Mr Mdunyiswa was spending around R1100 a month commuting from Gugulethu to Sea Point using a taxi.
He leaves his home before 6am and walks about half an hour to Gugulethu taxi rank, hoping to leave from there by 7am.
However, the queues at the rank are always long and that makes him late for work.
“I’m spending alot on transport and I don’t earn that much. A single trip to town is R9 (by train) and when I calculate that monthly I will be spending about R360 a month, which is a huge relief.
“The other thing that I love is the fact that I live five minutes away from the station and it makes it much more convenient for me to use the train.
“During the summer season I would walk to the taxi rank but now that winter is slowly kicking in I had to take a taxi because I feared that I might be robbed as it was still too dark to walk.
“I appeal to the management to put street lights just before the station because when you were coming towards the station it is too dark as there are no lights,” he said.
The newly appointed transport minister, Ms Chikunga said what they discovered was that people are already using these train services and paying much less than for other modes of transport.
With the high cost of living high, she said they are giving ordinary people travel choices at lower prices, and even though the whole Central line has not been reopened yet, at least there is progress.
Responding to questions about the people living on the railway land, she said they have to be relocated and were working with every department in ensuring that they are moved so that trains can operate again.