Cape Town - Continued violent attacks on Western Cape trains may lead to a suspension in services, Passenger Rail Agency of SA CEO Mosenngwa Mofi said on Thursday.
“The continued lawlessness may force our hand to close the central lines in the Western Cape until protesters desist from destroying state assets and communities expose these criminals,” he said.
“How can we risk bringing new trains and infrastructure when the current service is not safe?”
On Thursday, Mofi visited Khayelitsha to assess the damage to a train and station facilities that protesters set alight.
Regional Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said a group of protesters set an empty train alight at Chris Hani station around 7pm on Wednesday, forcing the train driver and guard to flee.
Four carriages, one a motor coach, were destroyed. Overhead electrical equipment and mast poles were damaged.
Shortly after, protesters attempted to torch the nearby Kuyasa station.
“A conservative costing of the latest damage is R8 million, excluding the damage to the station and the overhead electrical equipment,” Scott said.
The city's transport mayoral committee member Brett Herron condemned the vandalism as “shocking and sickening”.
He said a MyCiti bus was stoned near the Kuyasa station around 6pm.
No passengers were injured and the bus was withdrawn from service because of a smashed window.
Herron said they had been issuing free MyCiti myconnect cards from the Kuyasa ticket station. This was now closed until further notice.
“Tragically, following last night’s incident, it is the residents of Khayelitsha who are suffering the most.”
Mofi said if the violence continued it was only a matter of time before people were injured or killed.
“It is totally unacceptable that 20 years into our democracy frustration with service delivery is expressed through violence and wanton destruction of property.”
Thirty-one carriages had been damaged by fire or arson in the 2013/2014 financial year. He said theft and vandalism had cost the organisation R382m in the past three years.
“It is unfortunate that these assets under attack reduce our ability to offer commuters a proper service.”
Metrorail was forced to suspend train services on the Khayelitsha-Kuyasa-Chris Hani route until further notice.
Commuters were asked to use alternative modes of transport on Thursday as it was too volatile to activate a bus shuttle service. The train service from Cape Town to Khayelitsha, as well as all other lines, were operational.
Western Cape police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk said a case of malicious damage to property was opened and no arrests had yet been made. - Sapa