The DA Western Cape representatives sacrificed the comfort of their cars to travel by train in the early morning peak from Nyanga Train Station to Cape Town Central Station on Friday, to highlight to see first-hand the conditions of Cape Town’s congested rail network. The Cape Town Central line has been beset with crises ranging from criminals preying on passengers, to vandalism and arson and chronic delays. The chronic delays have had an adverse impact on job security and the economy as a whole.
The DA members who board a 27-mins late train from Nyanga to Cape Town train station, arrived at 9.20 am. While waiting in the dark, platforms with security surrounded the platforms entrance but ignored the safety of the commuter waiting for a train after peak.
A frustrated and exhausted commuter travelling from Bonteheuwel to Cape Town, explained how he leaves the house daily at 5am with his 6 year old son.
“I was robbed twice in this year with my son. I get to work almost every day late, and I cannot afford to take my car as it’s too expensive. The bosses don’t understand that the trains are late. I cannot afford to lose my job, but I cannot put my sons life at risk to leave the house earlier now that its winter,” he said.
Many other commuters who shared similar frustrations and fears for their safety, due to them being at risk of being victims of crime in their area and on the trains while travelling.
DA Shadow Minister of Transport, Manny de Freitas said there are only 89 operational police officers to protect the more than 500 000 commuters travelling by train in the Western Cape. This is far lower than the 571 police officers that were supposedly allocated to the Western Cape, as indicated in a parliamentary reply to the DA.
The City of Cape Town’s Alderman JP Smith said that due to the continued issues with rail safety, the City of Cape Town, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), and the Western Cape Government signed a memorandum of agreement for the formation of a dedicated enforcement unit which will focus on the safety and security of train commuters and infrastructure. The City and the Provincial government took this initiative, despite railway safety being a national competency.
“Many commuters spoke of how the railway system failed them, as they have very few alternatives available to them when trains break down or are delayed, due to vandalism. Commuters explained that train transport remains the cheapest alternative due to high fuel prices and limited alternative transport,” said DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele.
Many commuters VOC News spoke to said areas further away from the city and underprivileged areas are more affected by the Metrorail problems. Safety for young children and pregnant women has not being considered.
“We noticed young children playing very close to the train lines, and traveling alone,” the DA members explain.
De Freitas explained how it had emotionally affected him seeing how pregnant women and elderly people had to travel in the same condition. It was also worrying that tickets were not checked at the entrance and any commuter could just enter.
“The chronic delays on the Central Line have also put job security for many commuters at risk. However, beyond the risk of losing employment, commuters spoke about their children being late for school,” explained Smith.
From interactions with passengers, it became clear that they have completely lost faith in the country’s railway services.
Many commuters spoke of how the railway system failed them, as they have very few alternatives available to them when trains break down or are delayed, due to vandalism. Commuters explained that train transport remains the cheapest alternative due to high fuel prices and limited alternative transport. VOC