As authorities investigate who is behind Saturday’s attack on a train at the Cape Town station, its believed the estimated cost of the damaged coaches is approximately R30 million. Just after 4pm on Saturday, two trains caught fire at Cape Town station. Whilst 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.
Other reports suggest that the train was set alight when passengers got off the train when it arrived at the station. Unfortunately the burning train stopped adjacent platform 16 where another train was stationary, which also caught fire. It is reported that the fire was spotted by three teenagers who alerted security as passengers were
already disembarking. Train guards, together with security, tried to extinguish the fire, but at that time more coaches had already caught fire including the one parked at platform 16.
Rail regulator PRASA said total of seven coaches, two motor coaches and five plain trailers, were completely destroyed due to the fire.
“We do not want to speculate about the cause of this unfortunately incident at this point in time. However, we are seriously concerned about what appears to be a pattern of train fires in the Western Cape. PRASA has, in the last few months, been hard at work to try and recover the service in the Western Cape, particularly the Central Line, and this incident sets us backward. If there is an element of criminality surrounding this latest incident, it is the most senseless act against the only public transport system that is affordable to the masses of commuters who rely on this service,” said the Chairperson of PRASA Board of Control, Khanyisile Kweyama.
PRASA Group CEO Sibusiso Sithole said he will be sending a high level task team to probe the recent spate of fires on trains. He visited the Western Cape with a rail team a few weeks ago to determine the amount of work needed to stabilize the rail service in Cape Town.
“We have already been considering deploying the new trains to Cape Town to bolster the aging fleet. Cape Town is a very important region for PRASA because of the high rail commuter take up when compared to the rest of the 4 regions, but we are now seriously concerned whether it will be wise to send our new trains down there when the situation is still this volatile. I will be sending a high level team down to Cape Town to assess the situation and hopefully get to the bottom of what is really happening there”.
In recent weeks, there have been at least four arson attacks on trains in the city in Woodstock, Steenberg, Retreat and Ottery – one of which claimed the life of a commuter.
City of Cape Town Mayco member for Transport Brett Herron condemned the attack as “senseless”, saying commuters are facing the biggest burden.
“The sabotage of our rail system is relentless. I had hoped that the 15 year imprisonment sentence recently imposed by a court against a criminal convicted of sabotaging the rail system would have acted as some deterrent,” he said.
“Clearly these criminals need to see this kind of conviction and sentencing as inevitable if the criminal justice system is to assist us to save public transport from total destruction.”
There are a number of cases involving the sabotage of public transport awaiting prosecution. He has urged the National Prosecuting Authority to prioritise these prosecutions and to press for the harshest sentences possible.
“I avail myself to give evidence in court, during the sentencing phase, on the impact these attacks have on our transport network and our commuters. “
“I make this offer in the hope that convictions and harsh sentences will deter the attacks we are seeing on Metrorail, Golden Arrow Buses and MyCiTi buses and stations.”
Meanwhile, a decision of the Western Cape Minibus Taxi Task Team to withhold their services from tomorrow has been withdrawn. Herron said he had been informed by the Task Team Santaco failed to meet the agreed deadline related to the election of a new leadership structure. As a consequence of this, minibus-taxis had decided not to be operate as from Monday.
“Thousands of commuters rely on minibus-taxis to get to and from work. This trend has become more prevalent the past two years with the challenges Metrorail is facing,” he added.
“Thankfully there has been some resolution of this dispute and I have been advised the services will no longer be withheld tomorrow.” VOC