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Johannesburg - When Transport Minister Dipuo Peters stepped out of her black official Mercedes and onto the tarmac outside Soweto’s Naledi train station on Thursday morning, it wasn’t business as usual.
Rushing commuters kept looking around, trying to figure out what was afoot. They had no idea that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) was officially launching and unveiling the newly refurbished 10M5 train coaches.
“Today, we’re here to have a feel of what the commuters feel every day,” Peters said to the officials gathered around her.
She was first greeted by Gauteng MEC for roads and transport Ismail Vadi, who, along with Prasa and government officials, as well as the media, led the minister to a ticket office, where she filled in the visitors’ book.
“Refurbishment is very important because if you can take care of that which you have and be able to sustain it, the new one will just come to add to that,” said Peters.
“We want to move our people out of these trains that really don’t restore their dignity.”
After she had cut the blue ribbon, she greeted the train drivers and proceeded, her entourage in tow, into the first coach of train number 9397.
Commuters waiting at the station were told that it was “straight Jozi”, meaning it wouldn’t be making the usual stops.
Many of those who did board the train were able to express their concerns to the minister, but the rest looked on blankly, unimpressed, as she moved from coach to coach.
Themba Thiyane was among those who weren’t impressed. He said he had been taking the train for more than 20 years and felt things had run smoothly until the current government took over.
“The old trains used to be punctual and be driven by responsible drivers,” said the 50-year-old.
Thiyane was visibly upset as he explained how the train’s single-stop journey would affect the average commuter.
“This train didn’t pick up a lot of people because it missed many stops. How many of them will be late because of that? How will that affect their jobs?”
He said the train he was waiting for had not arrived because of the minister’s inaugural train ride, forcing him to take this one.
When the train passed Braamfontein station, almost a hundred people could be seen walking in the direction of Park station.
When Peters left a group of men she had just spoken to, they joked about how she was probably making false promises.
Many passengers echoed the same sentiment.
Cadet News Agency