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Metrorail warns that train services will be limited “under new normal”

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Metrorail has urged train commuters to obey new travelling protocols ahead of an expected resumption of phased in services from this week. Spokesperson Rianna Scott said on Tuesday that the rail service must get the go-ahead from Western Cape Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, Scott explained that the first few days the railway will operate on a “non-revenue” basis, to provide time to test the latest protocols. She emphasized that its not “business as usual” and that South Africa is “still operating under Covid-19 regulations” which requires all public transport to carry 70% of its conventional number of passengers.

Following more than three months of lockdown, government has continuously encouraged citizens to adapt to the “new normal”, which includes regular hand washing, wearing of a face mask and maintaining social distancing. Every business was ordered to establish a plan and make the necessary adjustments to ensure hygiene protocols are adhered to.

Scott explained that the train service is no exception but that the down-time was not used to improve the service as many would assume, but rather to prepare for the changes.

“We were impacted by the regulations just like everybody else. Under level 5 we couldn’t move- the only service that was deemed essential services was protective services. From levels 3 and 4, we were allowed to phase key people back in, at certain hours and days,” said Scott.

She added that only the biggest of stations will be used ie 13 out of 18 lines in the Western Cape. Physical distance markers have also been placed on platforms, ticket sales offices and inside trains and staff were made aware of crowd control methods.

It was emphasized that trains will be limited and that the turnaround time will be longer. This is due sanitization being done after every trip and limited ticket sales. Scott said that each station will have an allotment of tickets to be sold, based on “boarding and lighting figures and previous ticket sales”. You will also no longer be able to purchase monthly or return tickets due to the unpredictability of operations. Weekly tickets for peak hour travels will however be available.

According to Scott, management has been instructed to prepare for queries by commuters who purchased monthly tickets prior to lockdown, which will be attended to on a case-by-case basis.

“We planned on paper. Paper is very patient but the proof in the pudding is putting it into action.”

There will also be no eating or drinking while on-board a train and informal trading has been prohibited at stations. Although the railway will be operational, Scott urged commuters to have a back-up plan.

“Please be patient, there will be not a lot of trains- it’s a limited service. We are encouraging people to travel multi-modal,” Scott stressed.

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