Head-on collision of views over dismal state of Cape Town’s trains

Brigadier Bonginkosi Solucutho told parliament’s community safety committee on Wednesday that security was a significant factor in the rail service’s shortcomings‚ and CCTV cameras on stations were not seen as a priority by Prasa.

“Cameras are off since 2015. On platforms there are no cameras‚” he said.

Other challenges which hindered police work included a lack of fencing and little or no access control to stations; no communication from Prasa to commuters about cancellations and delays; and overcrowding as a result of shorter trains.

“Power failures‚ weather conditions and commuters’ behaviour make policing difficult‚” he said‚ showing MPs a video of passengers on Cape Town’s central line — the city’s busiest — “surfing” on the train and standing in doorways.

Solucutho said other problems included:

– About half of the Metrorail security guards operated without uniforms;

– Security officers were not briefed and deployed jointly with the police;

– Contract security guards were not consistently paid;

– Ticket offices were not open when trains were running;

– There was limited communication between Metrorail/Prasa and Transnet operational rooms about train fires‚ which led to long delays in cutting off electricity before flames could be tackled;

– Standby technicians were not centralised;

– Firefighting equipment was not readily available at all stations; and

– Some trains had no windows‚ seats or lights.

Department of Transport spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said Prasa had a recovery plan‚ dubbed Get on Track‚ to address the commuter network’s decline.

But the United National Transport Union said it was preparing an urgent high court application to force Prasa and the government to protect rail employees and commuters.

General secretary Steve Harris said the deterioration in safety and security on trains meant the right to life documented in the Bill of Rights was being “blatantly ignored”.

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