No public transport relief in sight for Tongaat workers as PRASA passes the buck

Tongaat residents struggle to afford to get to work since trains to Durban stopped operating four years ago

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A vandalised railway line north of Durban. Photo: Tsoanelo Sefoloko.

  • The northern train line from Durban to Tongaat stopped operating during the Covid lockdown four years ago .
  • Ever since, people with jobs in Durban have had to pay ten times more to get to work.
  • The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) says the line is the responsibility of Transnet Freight Rail.

Workers commuting between Tongaat and Durban have been struggling with high transport costs since the connecting northern rail line stopped operating four years ago.

The line was shut down in 2020 during the Covid lockdown, forcing commuters to rely on minibus taxis to travel the approximately 50km to work, predominantly in the industrial area of Isipingo.

While the return train journey used to cost R23, commuters are now having to spend R90 a day on taxis.

Tongaat ward councillor Dolly Munien (DA) said she suspects that the train has not resumed services due to vandalism on the line.

“It seems as if PRASA has forgotten about the Northern Line,” she said.

Not just workers, but people seeking work in Durban are also affected, she said.

Tongaat resident Siyabonga Mkhize said he resigned his job because the amount of money he was earning was not enough to cover his commute and living costs. Mkhize said after transport costs he was left with just R1,800 a month so he decided to look for work in Tongaat, although work was hard to find.

Tongaat resident Nhlanhla Bhengu said he spends R90 a day getting to and from work by taxi. Bhengu said some people in Tongaat who worked in Durban had relocated to areas closer to their work places, but he was unable to because he has a family and his children attend school in Tongaat.

He said he spent R2,160 a month on taxis, whereas the monthly train ticket used to cost R190 per month.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said there was nothing the department could do about restoration of the train line asthe service was run by PRASA.

“The only agency that can resolve this thing is PRASA,” said Ncalane. He said the department “would be happy” to see the line operational again as the train was the most affordable mode of public transport.

But PRASA communications officer Zama Nomgaga said they were not responsible for the Northern Line. Nomgaga said the line was Transnet Freight Rail’s responsibility and they were waiting for Transnet to fix it.

He said the line had been vandalised, and was also damaged by floods in April 2022.

But Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) communications officer Mary Papayya said the flooding recovery project was progressing and a single line was operational for diesel hauling.

Papayya said the line is used by PRASA and TFR. She said TFR ran six freight trains a week on the single line, but vandalism and theft of infrastructure was ongoing.

TOPICS:  Prasa / Metrorail

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