New trains, improved signalling systems and a new Rail Enforcement Unit – these are part of the measures that Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has promised to fix troubled Metrorail.
Nzimande held a transport imbizo in Khayelitsha on Saturday at which he told more than 500 people that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) also had a turnaround plan for Metrorail which focused on key infrastructure improvements to ensure safe and reliable train service
We are concerned about the state of public transport. It’s a pity that six years ago Cape Metrorail was the best in the country, but now is the worst. We have to correct that,” Nzimande told the crowd.
The imbizo came two days after President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the Dunnottar train factory in Gauteng on Thursday.
Nzimande said over the next 10 years about 600 train sets would be built, creating thousands of jobs.
In the Western Cape, Prasa was working towards ensuring that within the next 24 months, Metrorail would operate with 88 full train sets although the ideal number was 110.
“I’m told that at the moment that there are only 44 train sets operational. We want Prasa to move with speed in ensuring this.”
Nzimande said the government was also working towards changing laws to reclassify burning of trains as arson accompanied by stricter punishment.
“But I would like to appeal to you to work with us. You know who is burning the trains, who is stealing the cables. Let us work together in bringing those responsible to book”, he appealed.
Nzimande also called on the communities to establish transport forums to discuss their frustrations and solutions and to hold relevant transport officials in the national, provincial and municipal levels accountable.
“I will also appoint stakeholder relations teams to work with communities in Cape Town and East London so that I can be closer to what is happening.”
A new Rail Enforcement Unit was also unveiled yesterday which would work alongside rail police to ensure train safety.
However, some of the initiatives such as new trains, would not be in effect soon.
Over the past few years Metrorail services in Cape Town have deteriorated, due to ageing tracks, poor signalling systems that cause major delays, trains stopping unexpectedly, cancellations or delays of trains and overcrowded coaches.
Nzimande also called for an intergrated transport system with all service providers, buses, minibus taxis and the trains working together.
Frustrated commuters told Nzimande about their experiences in crowded trains, saying instead of improving, the rail service was getting worse.
A security worker at Metrorail who identified himself as Sipho called on Nzimande to “bring back people to run Metrorail better”.
“You must remove the regional manager and his team. Before you place people in senior leadership positions you have to scrutinise them.”
Taxi driver Ayanda Siswana appealed to Nzimande to make it easier and affordable to get required documentation.
“We will take any criticism that comes our way. We will work with you in finding solutions,” provincial transport MEC Donald Grant said.