Opposition to annual Metrorail price hike

Activists run petition against fare increases without improved service

Photo of a train coming into a station

A Metrorail train pulls into Esplanade Station on the Khayelitsha line. Photo: Masixole Feni

By Thembela Ntongana

31 March 2016

Public Transport Voice, an NGO that advocates for safe, affordable and accountable public transport, is handing out a petition to stop the annual Metrorail price hike in July this year.

“As Public Transport Voice, we are busy mobilizing people and making them aware about the price hike that is going to take place on 1 July 2016,” said community organiser Dalton Vusumzi Ndongeni. “We are busy collecting about 10,000 signatures, which we are going to table to Metrorail/Prasa officials because we are against this price hike.”

“To us, it seems Metrorail/Prasa officials are more concerned about the money, more than the service they offer commuters.”

Ndongeni says they have spoken to the Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker about their concerns. They were told that inflation, fuel costs and the electricity price hike is forcing up the prices.

“We don’t have a problem with that. What we say is that they need to uplift their service – for example train delays, staff attitude, safety and security issues, communication, decentralization of ticket sales, and disabled friendly infrastructure – before considering a price hike,” said Ndongeni.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says annual fare increases have been re-introduced since 2010 at Metrorail.

“This is a political decision and regions are advised of this in due course. We have not yet been given an indication whether if, when and how much 2016 fare increases will be.

“Fare increases are purely economic levies to cope with the increased cost of operating an existing service. Service improvements are generally funded through project specific budgets,” said Scott.

In last year’s increase the cost of single tickets went up by between fifty cents and one rand, weekly tickets between one and two rand, and monthly tickets between two and R38; depending on the travel zone and class.

Nobanzi Mfazwe, who signed the petition and travels from Eesterivier to Cape Town five days a week, says her first class (Metroplus) monthly already costs her R420.

With three children at school and a salary of R5,000, she says she cannot cope with a price increase. She would have to start travelling in third class (Metro).

“I have to pay for my children’s school fees, rent and buy food,” she said.

She said she stopped using third class because it was not safe, especially in the evening. Third class from Eesterivier to Cape Town costs R190; that is R230 cheaper.

“First class also gets full, but it does not get as full as third class … I have been pick-pocketed before. Because we all stand closely together, you can’t even feel someone opening your bag,” said Mfazwe.

Another Metrorail commuter, Sandiso Sijavu, who travels from Fish Hoek to Retreat to attend False Bay college in Westlake, is on a bursary. He stays with his grandmother and siblings. He says that if the prices go up and his grandmother cannot afford to chip in the extra, he will have to get off in Steenberg station and walk to college instead of getting off in Retreat and taking a taxi to Westlake.

His monthly fare is R150 a month, but he also spends R560 on taxis every month.

“Last year it went up by ten rand and that was fine because my grandmother could add on to it. I am worried if it goes up too much this time,” said Sijavu.

Another community organiser for Public Transport Voice, Zingisani Nkanjeni, says so far they have gone to seven train stations – five in Khayelitsha as well as Philippi and Mutual.

He says one of the most important things that they are fighting for is for Metrorail to make their stations disability friendly.

“When we ask Metrorail about their plan, they always tell us about the upcoming trains in 2019. But what we want to know is what about from now until then? What is their short term plan? Disabled people are having difficulties using their services especially those boarding trains with wheelchairs,” said Nkanjeni.

So far the organisation has close to 600 signatures. Nkanjeni says that when they have enough, they will send it to all the stakeholders at Metrorail.