More security for Cape Town’s trains in “two to three months” says City

The plan must prioritise commuter safety, says #FixOurTrains campaign

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Photo of a train passing
The City of Cape Town has announced the formation of a unit to improve security on Metrorail train lines. Photo: Brent Meersman

The City of Cape Town, the Western Cape government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) announced on Thursday they had signed an agreement to form a unit to improve security on Metrorail train lines. This follows an agreement made at a rail summit in February.

In a media statement, the City said the unit would be operational “within the next two to three months” and would operate for a 12-month period at a cost of approximately R47.9 million. It will be jointly funded by the Transport and Urban Development Authority, the Western Cape government and PRASA. “Each role-player is paying a third of the costs,” said councillor Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport.

“The unit will consist of at least a hundred members and will focus on commuter safety as well as vandalism and the theft of crucial Metrorail infrastructure and assets,” said Herron.

Herron said the priority was to address safety and security issues “so that we can stabilise the urban rail service in the short term”.

Matthew Hirsch of civil society group #UniteBehind, which has been running a #FixOurTrains campaign since 2017, said, “Any safety plan has to be commuter-centred. We feel that previously it has been too focussed on protecting assets. So we are cautiously optimistic about this announcement, but it will have to prioritise commuter safety.”

Richard Walker, Metrorail Western Cape regional manager, said the unit would primarily deal with vandalism, theft and illegal trade in metal and copper. “Secondly, to increase visible policing on trains and stations,” said Walker.

“The unit’s members will rely on technology and crime intelligence, and will support the South African Police Service,” said Herron. “The City will follow a recruitment process to appoint the members where after they will be trained.” He said the unit will be under the command and control of the City of Cape Town.

“We welcome the decision but we are frustrated and concerned that the relevant labour unions were not consulted at all in the process,” said Steve Harris, General Secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU), many of whose members work on the railway.

Harris told GroundUp in February that “organised labour are putting their lives at risk working on these railway lines … It is of no use to agree on interventions without getting input from those who are faced with the harsh reality of the situation daily.”

Herron said the unit would be operational for “at least 12 months, with an intention to extend”. He said an impact review would be conducted after the first six months.

The City refused to answer GroundUp’s questions about the kind of technology that would be used and whether or not the enforcement officers would be armed, citing “operational” reasons.

TOPICS:  Transport

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