Train agreement a ‘mixed blessing' for Cape Town commuters

14 October 2018 - 15:33 By Timeslive
Metrorail intended to ‘build a wall’ to stop Cape Town crime after the latest train fire. (File photo)
Metrorail intended to ‘build a wall’ to stop Cape Town crime after the latest train fire. (File photo)

The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for transport‚ Brett Herron‚ has described the compromise reached between the Rail Safety Regulator and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa)‚ which has been made an order of court‚ as a “mixed blessing”.

In terms of the court order‚ Prasa must comply with the safety requirements set out by the regulator‚ which has rescinded a suspension notice it issued to the rail services provider a week ago.

Herron said that on the one hand‚ he was relieved that a total shutdown of Metrorail services had been avoided‚ which would have been a disaster for the city and for the hundreds of thousands of passengers who relied on the service‚ despite its state of crisis‚ for their daily commute.

“On the other hand‚ the safety concerns and service conditions that led the Rail Safety Regulator to issue Prasa with a notice of intention to withdraw its operating permit prevail. Those unsafe and horrifying conditions have not been resolved overnight and remain. So the problem has not been resolved‚” Herron said on Sunday.

He said the city and the province had negotiated an agreement with Prasa which would see a dedicated Rail Enforcement Unit introduced onto the rail network this coming week.

“This is an unprecedented and unique intervention that was discussed with Prasa over many years. Prasa‚ the city and the province are co-funding this unit - a one of its kind intervention in our country which we fought for relentlessly.”

But the project was a pilot project and it could not be the sole intervention‚ Herron said.

He said the city and province had no control or authority over the rail function. This was the function and responsibility of transport minister Blade Nzimande and his department.

“The minister and his department must intervene to bring extra resources to restore Metrorail’s rolling stock capacity urgently and to bring additional safety and crime prevention resources to the network.”

Herron said the city’s dedicated rail enforcement unit would reside under the command and control of its safety and security management and would seek to improve the safety of commuters and to reduce the opportunity for vandalism of the infrastructure.

He added that the service needed at least 88 train sets to meet demand but was currently operating with less than 40. “We need an urgent intervention to get us back to 88 full train sets.”