My hectic Metrorail trip

Delays, jumping off carriages, no refunds and no improvement

Photo of woman looking out train

Commuters walk away off a train that got stuck outside Netreg station.

By Bernard Chiguvare

15 April 2016

As usual I woke up at 5 am to prepare to catch the 7 am train from Nyanga Junction to Salt River via Pinelands. It’s about a ten minute walk from my home to the station. My final destination is Rondebosch, which I aim to be at between 8 and 8:30 am.

My wife and I arrived at the train station at 6:45 am and noticed that passengers were restless, jumping from one platform to the other to get into any train to Cape Town.

We are lucky, I told my wife, because we only had to wait about 15 minutes. At 7 am we got onto a train. But it only departed at 7:20 am.

And then the train stopped a few metres from the ironically named Netreg [which means “just right” in Afrikaans] station for almost an hour. Passengers including school children were stranded. They waited a bit, but eventually got impatient. They jumped out of the windows and forced the doors of the train open so they could jump off the train then walked to Netreg station.

Eventually I also got off the train. Now, unless you are young, it isn’t easy to get off a train that is not at a platform. There is a large gap between the door and the ground. I lowered my wife down, and then jumped off. We walked to Netreg station.

Photo of inside of train carriage
This carriage was packed when I got on it. By the time my wife and I decided to get off, it was almost empty.
Photo of people hanging onto the back of a train
Trains were so full at Netreg that people stood on the back of carriages.

Some passengers called their bosses to tell them of the train delays.

At 9 am we were still at Netreg station, but my wife is supposed to start work at 9 am in Fish Hoek.

Eventually at 9:30 am we got a train heading for Cape Town.

About 500 metres from Salt River station, the train stopped. All the passengers decided to get off the train and walk to the station. Again I had to lower my wife, and then jump off the train.

Some people could be seen catching taxis while others began walking to Cape Town. As far as I could tell no one, or hardly anyone, gets their tickets refunded by Metrorail.

Photo of people walking in a field
Commuters walk through a field to get to Salt River station.
Climbing onto the platform at Salt River station.

At about 10:35 am we finally got onto a train for Fish Hoek. I got to work in Rondebosch at 11 am. My wife got to Fish Hoek station and called her boss — she’s a domestic worker — to come collect her and take her to work. But by then it was too late and she had to turn around and go home.

I understand that there is a strike on and that carriages were burnt, possibly in strike-related action. Today was worse than most, but bad experiences are a regular problem riding on Metrorail.