Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, says he is impressed with the work done by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) in partnership with his department to clear a stretch of railway line.
Last Tuesday he visited the railway line between Langa and Old Mutual stations to inspect the work being done to clear the area of overgrown grass and vegetation.
The department has made available R10 million and entered into an agreement with Prasa to improve passenger rail services.
Mr Madikizela and Prasa regional manager, Raymond Maseko assessed the impact of this programme and both shared the opinion that it was yielding the desired outcomes.
Mr Maseko said if the vegetation around railways tracks was left unattended, it could cause massive fire, particularly during what is traditionally Cape Town’s “fire season”
In addition to this, he said, high voltage electricity which keeps the trains running could also ignite dry, overgrown vegetation and cause a fire.
“It is critical that we do not take for granted this vegetation that grows next to railways as they could cause massive fires. The amount of electricity used by trains is very high and dangerous and it could easily light these plants. We want to ensure that safety is our top priority,” he said.
“This is line (between Cape Town and Langa) is not operational yet and when it becomes operational in the next two or three weeks, everything should be ready.”
Mr Maseko said the line had been closed since 2019 and he was excited about it being reopened in the near future – but they had ensure they met all the required technical and safety measures.
The line from Langa to Khayelitsha, he added, was still closed and a lot needed to be done before that line could be operational. This, he said, was being handled by the MEC and his department.
He said now there is now a new trend where criminals are no longer stealing cables but were attacking sub-station.
Mr Madikizela said they had decided to move away from criticising Prasa and had opted to find a way of assisting them in dealing with the problems they faced.
In the past, he said, the provincial department of transport and Prasa had clashed, which was not constructive. When he was appointed MEC, he added, his priority was to improve the working relationship between the two entities.
Mr Madikizela described as a “crisis” the fact that 75 000 families had built shacks and were living on and along the railway line between Philippi and Khayelitsha.
He said they were in the process of identifying land the people could be relocated to so that the railway line could be “unlocked”.