Commuters battle to get refunds after Cape Town train lines suspended

Metrorail power failure affects Cape Flats and Southern Line commuters on Tuesday

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Commuters at Rondebosch train station battled to get refunds when trains stopped running on Tuesday. Photo: Marecia Damons

Cape Town train commuters struggled to get refunds on Tuesday afternoon after trains on the Southern Line were suspended.

Metrorail provincial spokesperson Zino Mihi explained that trains were briefly unable to run due to a power failure. “The power failure affected the signaling equipment, which resulted in our service being impacted,” said Mihi.

According to Metrorail’s Twitter page, the “signal equipment failure at Muizenberg and Wynberg”, impacted both the Southern and Cape Flats train services. Consequently, trains on the Southern and Cape Flats lines were temporarily suspended.

Meanwhile, commuters were left stranded on Tuesday afternoon. At the Rondebosch station, one commuter, a GroundUp staff member, explained that he had purchased a return ticket earlier that day at the Steenberg train station. While waiting to return home, he was notified that the trains had been suspended and commuters could request a refund.

When trying to get refunded, he was informed he could only request a refund from the Steenberg station where he had purchased a return ticket.

In their updates, Metrorail stated: “Commuters are advised to make use of [their] own alternative transport in the affected areas.”

Asked why no alternative transport was provided by Metrorail for stranded commuters, Mihi said they no longer have a contract with Golden Arrow bus services.

“We are currently looking into a longer term solution on this. The provision of public transport is provided in unison between the bus and train operators. At the moment we are unable to do that because we don’t have a unified ticketing system that would be used on all subsidised modes of transport,” said Mihi.

When GroundUp visited the Rondebosch station around 4:15pm, we were told by staff that they were awaiting a train from the Wynberg station. At the time, there had been no trains since 1:20pm.

Several commuters asked for refunds at the Rondebosch station, but were told by staff that they could not issue refunds as they feared there would not be enough cash float to give other commuters change.

Mihi said commuters can get their refunds at any station. “We are investigating the issue you are referring to,” she said.

Phumza Mhlungwini, from the rail activist group #UniteBehind, said: “Commuters, who budget and buy monthly tickets now do not get the value of their purchase. For poor commuters, even the cost of a day’s ticket can mean the difference between having food on the table or not.”

Speaking on the lack of alternative transport provided to commuters by Metrorail, Mhlungwini said alternative transport like taxis and buses are “around five times more expensive than using trains”.

“This is a huge financial burden for commuters, especially the poor and working class. Commuters will also be delayed and may face disciplinary action. They will have fear and anxiety over the uncertainty that the situation creates,” Mhlungwini said.

TOPICS:  Prasa / Metrorail

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