Vandals again causing havoc as 27 train routes cancelled in Cape Town
Cable thieves and vandals have caused major disruptions to Cape Town's railway network, forcing the cancellation of 27 passenger train routes and causing peak-hour commuter delays.
Metrorail spokesperson in the Western Cape, Riana Scott, said on Tuesday that “extraordinary measures” had to be adopted to ensure the safety of passengers after cables and infrastructure were stolen and damaged.
“Cancellations are done to create capacity for the stop-and-go sections, otherwise the system will be congested. Twenty-seven trains had to be cancelled on Monday afternoon as well as this morning’s peak. By [late afternoon] we should have an indication of further cancellations.”
Metrorail said earlier that vandals had disrupted the railway network on Sunday and Monday.
“On Sunday cable thieves attempted to steal critical infrastructure [cable] at Salt River. Their attempt triggered a high voltage surge that damaged the equipment room, several components housed therein and the uninterrupted power supply,” said a statement.
“This morning cables were vandalised and stolen between Kentemade and Ysterplaat as well as between Hazendal and Langa. As a result, various signals were unable to function, affecting all lines.”
Metrorail had to resort to "manual authorisations" for the movement of trains, impose additional speed restrictions, route deviations, platform changes and “train cancellations to create capacity on affected lines”.
“These alternative working methods are safe but inevitably extend running times of affected trains by 90 to 120-plus minutes,” the statement read. “Teams of technicians are working around the clock to repair as much of the damage as possible. Full recovery of all services could take up to 48 hours, conditions permitting.
“Metrorail condemns these acts of vandalism in the strongest possible terms. Despite a string of arrests and convictions, thieves continue to cripple train services by brazenly stripping critical infrastructure and inconveniencing thousands of commuters through their criminal deeds. Metrorail management would like to thank commuters and employers for their patience and understanding.”
Deputy president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jacques Moolman said the effect of a failing commuter rail service on business and employees was serious, but even more serious was the effect on business confidence. “That is bad for future investment and job creation.
“On a daily basis business has to deal with traumatised employees, late arrivals at work and lost productivity. It is demotivating and frustrating. We cannot understand why the vandalism and the copper theft problem have continued for so long and why the forces of law and order have had so little success in bringing the perpetrators to book,” he said.
“New efforts are being made to bring the situation under control and there have been some recent successes but it is not enough. It now seems that more work has to be done at weekends and at night when most of the criminal activity takes place.”
He said it was time to accept that government management of the rail system had been a failure. “We need the management skills of the private sector to rescue our train service.”