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
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
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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