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Cape Town - Metrorail has doubled its security in the Western Cape year-on-year since about 2009, says its regional manager.
Regional head Mthuthuzeli Swartz said that, in about two months, to boost safety measures, Metrorail would formally launch a security unit that would be deployed on trains to watch over commuters.
A Western Cape High Court judge said last week that Metrorail’s platform marshal system, aimed at ensuring commuters’ safety by monitoring that train doors remained closed, was “inadequate”.
Commuter Bongani Seti, of Khayelitsha, was injured in February 2009 when he tried to get through the open door of a moving train at Khayelitsha station.
Judge Monde Samela ruled last week that rail authorities would have to pay half of Seti’s proven damages. Train doors are supposed to remain closed when a train is moving.
Swartz said on Thursday that a number of safety measures had been put in place since 2009, and each year the number of security officers deployed by Metrorail had doubled.
Metrorail’s security complement was more than 1 000, he said. There were roughly 1 100 security personnel within Metrorail and a further 1 200 private guards were used.
Swartz said 54 platform marshals were deployed at eight key stations and they focused on crowd control and crime prevention.
Surveillance cameras were in use, including along the Khayelitsha line.
Swartz said Metrorail had a unit that focused on infrastructure and depots, and tried to prevent equipment and signals from being vandalised.
A second unit, to be launched formally in about eight weeks, was aimed at boosting security measures on trains.
Members of the unit had begun working on trains, but had yet to be supplied with uniforms that would set them apart from other Metrorail employees.
Swartz said the number of security officers being deployed on trains at any moment was flexible.
“The deployment differs at the time of the day, when it’s peak and off-peak – and then hot spots and intelligence,” he said.
Metrorail spent R12 million a month on security.
Swartz said while Metrorail was constantly developing its security plan, some commuters hampered its efforts. They damaged trains, did not pay for tickets, and held train doors open.
Leslie van Minnen, who founded the Rail Commuters Action Group after his son, Juan, 19, was stabbed to death on a Metrorail train 12 years ago, was sceptical about the security measures.
He questioned why platform marshals were not deployed at all stations.
In handing down judgment last week, Judge Samela said Seti “should have refrained from attempting to board” the moving train.
But he said a train that was moving with a door or doors open equalled “an invitation to prospective passengers to attempt to board it”.
In his judgment, Judge Samela said, among other things:
* According to a witness’s evidence, the railway authorities were aware “that commuters boarded and alighted the moving trains when the doors were open, (yet) had made no attempts at all to employ more platform marshals to assist the train guards on the Cape Town-Khayelitsha line since 2009 up to the hearing of this matter”.
* A reasonable person in the position of the railway authorities “would not at all have allowed the train to move with the doors of the second or third train coach open”.