Prasa slammed for failing to co-fund rail enforcement unit in wake of commuter attacks
Cape Town MMC for transport Brett Herron has expressed his exasperation with the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) over its failure to play its part in co-funding a special rail enforcement unit that the city is currently training.
Herron expressed his anger on Sunday following an attack on commuters travelling on a train between Lynedoch and Eerste River on Friday evening‚ which resulted in the death of one man.
Eight other commuters were also robbed of their belongings before being thrown off the train. One commuter was found with a broken knife blade embedded in his head.
Herron said in May this year‚ Prasa had signed a memorandum of agreement and committed to co-fund the special rail enforcement unit together with the city and the Western Cape provincial government.
He said the cost to establish and operate the unit for a year was about R47.9m‚ and the cost had to be shared equally among the city‚ the provincial government and Prasa.
“Despite Prasa’s obligation‚ as confirmed by the Constitutional Court‚ to ensure a safe public transport service and all of our efforts to assist them to honour this obligation‚ we are still awaiting Prasa’s contribution of R16m.
“We have sent several urgent reminders to the Prasa executive to fulfil their duties and to honour their commitment.”
Herron said given that Prasa had not paid its share‚ the city had had to cut down on the number of recruits for this enforcement unit‚ who would be focusing on the safety and security of Metrorail commuters and infrastructure.
“As local government we are already going beyond our mandate to contribute and fund a solution that is the sole responsibility of national government," said Herron.
“I have said many times before that our urban rail service is on the verge of total collapse."
Herron said relentless attacks on commuters and the sabotage of rail infrastructure had become a weekly occurrence.
Herron said he had sent a letter to transport minister Blade Nzimande‚ calling on his urgent intervention to ensure that Prasa paid the R16m that was needed to fund the unit.
“I also requested the minister to declare a state of emergency or disaster in so far as the rail service in Cape Town is concerned.
“I did this so that the national government can deploy additional resources to investigate‚ arrest and prosecute those responsible for the ongoing attacks and sabotage and to assist us to turn this service around and prevent it from total collapse.”
Western Cape MEC for transport and public works Donald Grant said the latest attack highlighted an urgent need for prosecution of these crimes.
Grant said he was disappointed at the police’s inability to investigate these incidents of criminality effectively‚ and to successfully prosecute and convict those responsible and place them behind bars.
“We believe that effective criminal investigations and successful prosecutions‚ coupled with the necessary and urgent overall improvements by Prasa‚ will send a strong message to would-be culprits that their acts will not be tolerated and that they will be brought to justice.
“Only then will we see conditions improve for commuters in the Cape‚” Grant said.