Metrorail has voiced concern over recent fires and vandalism of its train carriages that has left the rail service operating at 52 per cent capacity, severely impacting service delivery for the already embattled rail network.
In the latest incident at the weekend, the City’s Fire and Rescue Services responded to a blaze in Leonard Radu Road, Philippe, after three railway carriages were set alight. The incident followed numerous Metrorail train fires in recent months, which left at least one person dead. The investigation into the fires is yet to be concluded.
Metrorail Western Cape spokesperson Zino Mihi explained that the rail service has lost more than 100 carriages due to vandalism and arson since October 2015.
Mihi said that as a result of the setbacks, punctuality and reliability of train lines have declined, which she said has forced desperate commuters to cram into Metro Plus carriages.
“So, the region only has 46 train sets to service a timetable that is designed for 88 train sets, hence the many cancellations.”
Mihi said the recent fires appear to be as a result of arson attacks.
“It’s not easy to know who the culprits are, but I can safely say it’s actually arson because there is not reported technicality or fault on our part.
While the investigation into the cause of recent fires on carriages is yet to be concluded, according to Mihi, Metrorail has been victim to service delivery protests.
“Service delivery protests are part of our social ills – things that have nothing to do with Metrorail – but we become the vulnerable area.
“When communities are frustrated you cannot say where they are going to go, but rail has become a focus area of communities whenever there is service protests,” Mihi stated.
Metrorail in the Western Cape suspended its train services between Philippi and Chris Hani, on the Central Line, due to infrastructure and track equipment problems.
Mihi said Metrorail is working with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to stabilize the decline in service delivery.
“The Prasa Modernization Process is underway where we are expecting to get new trains. It’s a working progress because currently we have the signaling system underway.
“For now, we cannot guarantee that it will be 100 per cent, but we are trying our best to service as much as we can. Some of the challenges are quite technical, because our infrastructure is very old.”