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At last something is being done about safety on Cape Town's crime-infested trains: a revolutionary "big brother" system is being tested to spy on criminals preying on passengers in coaches.
The plan is to install vandal-proof electronic surveillance cameras in coaches, linked by satellite to a control room, to keep an eye on criminals so security staff can be alerted.
Cape Town is set to pioneer the camera system on commuter trains in South Africa.
The Sunday Argus has established that a pilot project involving the ground-breaking satellite technology has been launched to test the feasibility of installing and operating these state-of-the-art cameras on city trains to ensure the safety of commuters.
This was confirmed by Frank van der Velde, spokesperson for Cape Town's roads and transport department, who said: "This technology exists and the safety committee of the city has already been in talks with the provincial and national transport authorities to investigate the possibility of installing these special cameras on trains to combat crime.
"We will also be considering the installation of such satellite remote-controlled closed-circuit cameras on an inner-city bus service," he said.
The city already has a remote-controlled closed-circuit camera system in the central business district and on Vanguard Drive, but this system uses land-lines to link the cameras to a central control room. The technology has now been perfected to use a satellite link to monitor trains and other moving transport vehicles, such as buses.
A pilot project has been launched to test the feasibility of installing and operating the satellite-linked cameras on city trains.
Cape Metrorail has recently faced a barrage of criticism over the lack of safety on its trains. Commuters are taking the train operator to the Constitutional Court to force it to secure the safety of passengers.
A Cape Metrorail spokesperson was not prepared to supply information about the project, saying there was an agreement between concerned parties not to reveal details.
Van der Velde said the satellite surveillance project was one of many proposals to make public transport safer for commuters. He said the city was also in the process of installing closed-circuit cameras at many of the major intersections in Cape Town.
Closed-circuit cameras have been installed at the train, taxi and station interchanges in Bellville, while electronic surveillance systems are also being installed at the Joe Gqubi intersection in Stock Road, Philippi.
"Our first priority is to address the fact that the poor, because of historic reasons, are the furthest removed from their work places. Therefore the city is targeting the Klipfontein transport corridor as a priority development area," Van der Velde said.
"We are looking not only at rapid transport, but also at subsidiary feeds from taxis, smaller buses, cycling paths, and pedestrian walkways along the corridor to ensure the safety of commuters."