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Metrorail mess hobbles Cape Town businesses

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Bosses say the ongoing crisis with Metrorail has forced them to relook at how they run their businesses, from allowing flexitime to getting staff to work from home.

In a Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry member survey, bosses reported that their staff had became demotivated and unreliable trains had reduced productivity.

Four trains were torched last month, but over the past year the service has lost a number of trains. Metrorail parent company Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) said an estimated R70 million had been spent since January to repair damaged trains.

It will take up to a year to replace trains and Metrorail has warned that the service will remain under pressure.

Chamber president Janine Myburgh said 12% of their members responded to the survey, of that 8.5% said their staff are demotivated and they have reduced productivity; 90% claims that traffic congestion has increased due to the rail inefficiency, resulting in higher fuel costs and time lost.

Myburgh said the survey also revealed growing anger at the under-performance of Metrorail.

“What makes this so desperately sad is that Cape Town has the best network of railway lines of any city in the country but the service on these lines seems to be getting worse every day,” she said.

The survey revealed that 27.4% of respondents had to deal with an absentee rate that had increased by 10% or more. Nearly 35% said that they had assisted workers by providing some kind of transport, or assistance with taxi fees; 47.6% said they had introduced flexitime to ease commuting problems; while 27% said that working from home was a viable option for some staff.

Employers said their workers were getting a raw deal from Metrorail.

“They pay for a monthly ticket but when the service isn’t there, or trains are too late, they have to find money to pay for taxi or bus fares. There are no refunds.”

To make matters worse, some employers allege that mini-bus taxis increase their fees when trains are not available.

There are also concerns that commuters are then forced to travel in the dark, especially in winter, when trains are late or are cancelled. “Many of our staff live in crime-ridden areas and they fear for their lives every day when they return home in darkness,” one employer said.

Metrorail spokesperson, Riana Scott said: “The deliberate onslaught against a vital public service last month took its toll.”

Scott adds that the recovery process is a lengthy one in which a lot of rebuild will have to take place. “Current train cancellations can be attributed to carriages destroyed by fire and an optimistic scenario for the return of burnt carriages is six to 12 months,” said Scott.

[Source: Cape Times]
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