Cape Town trains back on track after station arsonists bring network to a standstill

28 November 2019 - 07:01 By TimesLIVE
The remains of a burnt train at Cape Town station on November 28 2019.
The remains of a burnt train at Cape Town station on November 28 2019.
Image: City of Cape Town

All commuter trains in Cape Town were briefly cancelled on Thursday morning after fires at the city's central station destroyed 18 carriages. 

A limited service was reinstated around 8am, but platforms 9 to 19 at the station were out of bounds as investigators combed the wreckage of four trains.

Western Cape Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said early indications were that arsonists were responsible for the fires and that an accelerant was used.

"Commuters are advised to listen to announcements, follow social media channels and share information with fellow commuters. Customer services employees are assisting customers at the platforms," she said.

"Law enforcement and investigative teams are still on site. The burnt trains will be moved to the depot for assessment by loss adjusters later today to determine the cost of the damage.

"Thereafter technical and recovery teams will move in to assess the integrity of underlying and overhead infrastructure."

Scott said most platforms were still covered in debris and water, and the station concourse and offices were filled with smoke.

City of Cape Town fire service spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said the alarm was raised at 2.20am.

The first crews to arrive found carriages alight at platforms 9 and 10, he said.

“Upon further investigation, fires were found on platforms 12, 13 and 15 and more resources were requested to contain the blaze.

“A number of motor coaches and passenger coaches were destroyed and the fire was extinguished at 4.53am.

Carelse said: “No injuries were reported and the scene was handed over to the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa).”

Hundreds of thousands of commuters still use Metrorail trains to commute in Cape Town, despite a string of fires, attributed to arsonists, but unsolved. They have left services limping.

Since 2015, 214 train carriages have been set alight in SA in apparent arson attacks. Many of these incidents happened in Cape Town. But who is responsible? What is their motivation? And how has Prasa responded? We try to find out who is turning Cape Town’s railways into a fiery hell.


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