Cape Town - The Central train line in Cape Town will be out of service for the foreseeable future, leaving up to 150 000 commuters scrambling to get to their destinations.
Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said: “It is likely to be days or even weeks before a full service will be able to be introduced, similar to before the Langa protests started.”
Walker said repairing cables could not be done overnight. Metrorail did not specify how much it would cost to repair and replace the equipment.
Technical teams are working flat-out, and Walker said they would be able to predict on Friday how long the service would be suspended.
“They will be able to predict when and what level of service is possible, given the condition of the remaining infrastructure,” Walker said.
The line, which takes in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and Bishop Lavis, has been out of service since Tuesday, after Langa residents who were fed up with slow housing service, started protesting that morning, vandalising municipal infrastructure, the post office and Metrorail equipment.
Police arrested 41people, three of them minors. One person was arrested for being in possession of a petrol bomb. They are charged with public violence, and released on bail.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said although the violent protest in Langa had stabilised, commuters should continue to rely on alternative means of transport as rail equipment had not been repaired.
Metrorail has not made alternative transport such as buses available.
Scott said technicians had already started assessing the damage, but “it is not guaranteed that the train service can resume immediately. Stations will remain closed, and tickets will not be sold on affected lines”.
“As a result, the central train service remains suspended until a proper condition assessment can be done,” said Scott.
United National Transport Union (Untu) spokesperson Sonja Carstens described the suspension of train services as “terrible” and a “bad situation”.
“We get situations of late and unsafe trains every day,” said Carstens.
She said it was unfair that commuters were not provided with alternative transport.
There have been long queues at the Station Deck taxi rank since Tuesday night, and traffic has been slow in the morning and afternoons as people opted to take cars and taxis to work.
Commuter Mongezi Khula, 27, said he had to borrow money from a friend to go to work, and did not know how he would get to work next week should trains still be suspended.
“Alternative transport is the first option that Metrorail should have explored. It is in the middle of the month and people have already bought monthly tickets, and have no money to pay for alternative transport. We are left stranded. Metrorail is failing us,” he said.
Another commuter, Ntombizodwa Thandani, 24, said she missed three days of classes.
“It is very important that I attend classes this week, and this suspension of trains has affected me greatly.”