Metrorail faces another setback after 11 carriages were left gutted in a devastating fire at the Cape Town railway station on Saturday afternoon. According to Metrorail, Cape Town station’s platforms 15 and 16 will be closed until further notice.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined however, this is just one in a spate of train fires recently. In recent weeks, there have been at least four arson attacks on trains in the city in Woodstock, Steenberg, Retreat and Ottery, wherein one commuter was left dead.
Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) spokesperson Nana Zenani said in a statement that while the reasons behind the fire are still sketchy, it is reported that one train arrived at the station, at platform 15, with one of the coaches already on fire. She added that it was not peak hour neither was the train on fire at the time of arrival but rather set on fire when it stopped.
Zenani said that three gentlemen went to the security guard to inform her of the fire. The investigation has brought the same gentlemen into question speculating as to whether they were actually the perpetrators.
“The train manufacturing plant that we’ve just finished only manufactures the new trains and in order for the new trains to run, we have to shut down a particular area, strip that entire area by taking out the old rail tracks and everything else which is an 18 month to 2 year suspension of services.”
Zenani has urged the broader community to help in tracking down the culprits and taking a stand against the situation.
“If it is costing us more money and lives to run the service, then the most logical thing would be to suspend the service and that would create even more chaos.”
Meanwhile, Group CEO of Prasa, Sibusiso Sithole said that the agency had already been considering deploying the new trains to Cape Town in order to bolster the “ageing fleet”.
However, concerns were now raised as to “whether it will be wise to send our new trains down there when the situation is still this volatile”. He said a team would be sent to Cape Town to assess the situation.
“While it has yet to be established whether or not arson was at play, it remains important that Metrorail continues to prioritise security of the rail network in order to prevent the frequency of attacks,” said Metrorail regional manager, Richard Walker.
Damages are to cost an estimated R30 million. VOC