Cape Town rail service hitting the buffers‚ says its manager

12 January 2018 - 15:48 By Dave Chambers
A Metrorail train in Cape Town.
A Metrorail train in Cape Town.
Image: Bernard Chiguvare via GroundUp

It’s going to be a grim 2018 on Cape Town’s rail network‚ its manager said on Friday.

Richard Walker said commuters should brace themselves for longer journey times because of the “instability and vulnerability” of the rail system.

“Due to the obsolescence of the infrastructure and trains beyond their design life‚ in-service failures are a reality and incessant vandalism severely hampers the provision of stable services‚” said Walker.

With tens of thousands of people returning to work on Monday‚ Walker said Cape Town’s central line — the city’s busiest — would remain closed indefinitely following the murder of a security guard on Tuesday at Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha.

“Current alternative arrangements continue‚ ie no single/returns/weekly tickets will be sold; monthly train ticket holders may use Golden Arrow buses off-peak (after 8.30am and again after 6pm)‚” he said.

Trains would be subject to speed restrictions‚ route deviations and manual signal authorisation as a way of keeping them running despite infrastructure problems‚ all of which would lengthen journey times.

Average commuting times during weekday peak hours would be:

  • Muldersvlei/Wellington/Strand to Cape Town‚ 90 minutes;
  • Kraaifontein to Cape Town‚ 60 minutes;
  • Simon’s Town to Cape Town‚ 70 minutes;
  • Bellville to Cape Town‚ at least 45 minutes;
  • Retreat to Cape Town‚ 40 minutes; and
  • Chris Hani/Kapteinsklip to Cape Town (once the line reopens)‚ 60 minutes;

Walker said several railway modernisation projects in Cape Town were nearing completion.

“Until such time as the maintenance‚ repairs and specialised interventions of the stabilisation phase start to improve services‚ commuters and their employers are advised to adjust their travel patterns and expectations‚” said a Metrorail statement.

The City of Cape Town is planning an urgent rail summit to address the “inhumane conditions” commuters are subjected to.

In a statement in December‚ mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said urgent intervention was needed.

“Commuting by train in Cape Town is stressful and degrading. You are exhausted once you reach your destination and then you still have to work an eight-hour day‚” he said.

In October‚ the city council adopted a plan to gradually take over the rail service.