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Cape Town Metrorail Riled After Further Coaches Are Torched

Cape Town’s Metrorail has not managed to operate at optimum capacity for more than a year, as PRASA’s fleet of passenger trains have fallen victim to repeated arson attacks on the city’s Central Line over the past 18 months. In another attack, four coaches were set alight at Thornton station, between Cape Town and Bellville on the evening of the 2 December. The incident followed service disruptions earlier in the week, which were the direct result of cable theft and vandalism. It is suspected that disgruntled commuters may be involved in the arson attacks, but no arrests have been made as yet.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) has added their voice to many stakeholders in South Africa’s public transport sector who are dissatisfied with PRASA’s response to the ongoing criminality that is undermining service delivery on the country’s railways. General Secretary of the UNTU, Steve Harris made his feelings known in a public statement following the incident, saying: “The South African Police Service (SAPS) owes the country’s taxpayers an explanation as to why these criminals are not being arrested for malicious damage to property and brought before the courts, where they would face severe sentences if found guilty.”

According to statistics, 375 coaches have been vandalised in the first quarter of the 2016/17 financial year, in comparison to 250 in 2015/16, showing a steep increase in crime related incidents on the country’s railways. As a result, PRASA is only able to provide 248 train sets per day when passenger services in the region require 287. The result has been a severe decrease in ridership, as commuters find alternative means to get to work and home. In light of the National Department of Roads and Transport’s ambitions to place rail as the backbone of the country’s transport networks, having the rail sector lose market share in the passenger market is a serious concern, as an increase in road traffic volumes will contribute to further congestion, traffic accidents and air pollution, among other challenges.

The spokesperson for Western Cape Metrorail, Riana Scott has confirmed that services on Cape Town’s Central Line have resumed. However, services remain restricted due to rolling stock shortages.

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