How Metrorail treats commuters

Thousands of Cape Town train travellers will identify with this experience

Photo of people hanging off trains

Metrorail’s service is disintegrating. Archive photo: Masixole Feni

By GroundUp Staff

7 November 2017

Gareth Dawson travels by train to his job at the University of Cape Town (UCT) daily. He has to use the Southern line and gets off at Rosebank. This is what happened to him on Monday.

At 7:50am he arrived at Lakeside station and purchased a one way Metroplus ticket to Rosebank. He was told the trains were delayed by about 50 mins. The platform was already fuller than usual. He eventually caught a train at about 8:30am. At about 8:45am the train stopped at Healthfield station for approximately 15 minutes. The doors would not open. Dawson estimates that, at most about a third of the windows could open. The train was packed with people pushed up against each other.

At 9:25am the train pulled into Rosebank. Dawson says he and five other people attempted to open the doors, to no avail. It was not possible to dash to another door as the aisle was packed. The train left the station.

Dawson, a middle-aged woman, a woman with a toddler and some commuters managed to get to a different door by the time the train arrived at the next stop in Mowbray. There they managed to disembark. He had no cash on him, so he needed to get a refund to pay for a taxi back to Rosebank. But the attendant behind the counter refused to give him a refund. He asked the attendant to call the supervisor, but she refused to do so, refused to give her name and walked away.

Another stranded commuter asked if or when there would be another train heading back to Rosebank. The attendant refused to answer. Dawson attempted to call Metrorail, but the phone simply rang. In the 15 minutes he spent trying to get hold of Metrorail to try to get assistance with a refund, no trains passed that were heading back to Rosebank.

At this point he gave up and walked 20 minutes back to Rosebank. Until 10:35am the Metrorail number listed on the company’s website remained unanswered.

GroundUp informed Metrorail’s spokesperson Riana Scott what happened. She responded that two issues affected the Southern line on Monday: (1) sand on the tracks between Simon’s Town and Glencairn, and (2) a power failure in Diep River.

“Either or both issues could have resulted in delays, the actual train number would have enabled us to track its movements this morning. It would also have been possible to establish immediately which train-set was used and why its door mechanisms malfunctioned. Trains are checked daily and the maintenance teams have been alerted,” Scott said.

“The regional web-site had to be discontinued some years ago and was replaced by a blog The provision of the unanswered numbers would have assisted us to track whether these still exist and if so, which employees were on duty and why the calls went unanswered,” she said. “The Customer Services Manager for the southern line and the area manager responsible for Mowbray Station have been made aware of the complaint and would like the opportunity to fully investigate the matter. We request the complainant’s contact details to be able to do so please.”

GroundUp subsequently put Scott in touch with Dawson. She in turn put Dawson in touch with Raymond De Beer who “manages Mowbray Station and will be glad to assist”.

“Dealing with the complaint after the fact and not when I spoke directly to the person at the counter does not change the fact that I was left stranded,” Dawson told GroundUp.