Cable theft blamed for Metrorail failure

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport appeals to commuters not to burn trains

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Photo of burnt out coach
One of the burntMetrorail coaches at Cape Town station. Photo: Natalie Pertsovsky

On Tuesday, the Portfolio Committee on Transport visited the Cape Town train station following the events of Monday night in which commuters, angry over extended train delays, set two trains alight.

“The Portfolio Committee is shocked and taken aback by the incident of last night,” said Leonard Ramatlakane, the acting chairperson of the committee.

He claimed that the power failures were a result of cable theft. “We can see clearly that there is a criminal effort that has crept into this,” said Ramatlakane.

After a closed meeting between committee members and PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, the owner of Metrorail) officials, which excluded the media, the portfolio committee inspected the damage.

Vodacom store manager Sagid Muhammad, whose shop was looted during the protest, said when he heard about the destruction he returned to work to find his store ransacked. “Police were here, but they were standing and not doing anything,” he said.

Ramatlakane appealed to communities to help with policing what he called “this criminal element that masquerades as commuters.”

He also made an appeal to commuters: “Metrorail is the only source of transport to move thousands and thousands of people from home to work everyday. Burning it is not a solution. It only creates and aggravates the problems of poor people who use this train.”

He added that a police investigation is underway to review security footage and prosecute perpetrators.

TOPICS:  Prasa / Metrorail

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

You can't point fingers here.

People were patient enough for you to sort out your problem and what have you done? You forced us to over-spend our transport budget time and time again. You have the nerve to announce trains are not running so commuters must use an alternative transport - where is our value? You give us only seven coaches, most of these trains are seven couches instead of twelve. We are treated as criminals by most of your employees and they don't fear retribution since they are mostly relatives, comrades, and friends of management.

You are failing us.

I don't support criminal activities but this has been going on for far too long.

Dear Editor

I've been using Metrorail trains since 2006, I don't agree with violence as a response to the poor service but can understand the levels of frustration and despair that lead to the violent outbursts on Monday.

I was there at 8pm waiting for my train and there were school kids trying to get hold of their parents, elderly people, wet and cold after the rains and even disabled people. And where were all the ticket collectors and security guards? Hidden somewhere as has become common during these incidents.

For years, the response from Metrorail officials to delays and bad conditions of the train sets has always been to blame it on cable theft and vandalism but they must also take responsibility for the disregard and disrespect that has become the norm in dealing with their clients, especially the ones that travel to the least affluent areas of Cape Town.

The service announcements on platforms 12, 13, 14 and 15 are barely audible, most electronic boards don't work properly or give the wrong information and very seldom there's anyone informing the commuters of which train to take on which platform... and this is a normal occurrence.

The Metrorail official website hasn't been working for years and most commuters have been relying on a free community service ( to have access to timetables and information on delays/cancellations.

Most of the problems with the Metrorail service comes down to bad management and an absolute lack of interest or effort from the majority of its staff in trying to make things better or easier for their clients. But when someone is caught without a ticket they are treated disrespectfully and locked away like animals.

The carriages are filthy, unsafe and badly serviced. Most ticket collectors are busy chatting or playing on their phones instead of checking for valid tickets.

Metrorail should feel quite fortunate that these kinds of reactions don't happen more often and on a bigger scale, after the years of abuse and neglect experienced by commuters on a daily basis.

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