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Cape Town - Some passengers were so desperate to catch an overloaded train from Cape Town station that they clung to the outside of the locomotive, staring into the eyes of the driver.
A shocked passenger whipped out his cellphone to document the dangerous antics.
Travel sales agent Dominic Kessell described some of the challenges faced by Metrorail passengers on their daily commute.
Before even reaching platforms, they had to stand in queues snaking back from ticket counters with only a few sellers on duty.
Kessell said the sellers could be “unfriendly and incompetent” and often issued the wrong ticket.
Tempers were raised by tardy communication at stations when trains were delayed or cancelled. Sometimes, Kessell said, the wrong information was broadcast over the PA system, causing anger and confusion.
Another problem was getting the schedule straight, as station boards listed different times from the timetable on the Metrorail website or the GoMetro mobile app.
“This has cost me unnecessary money,” said Kessell, who has to get to work by 6am. When Metrorail’s app listed the wrong time, he missed his train and had to pay up to R180 for a taxi.
Kessell also brought up the dim standard of lighting on some station platforms and in train carriages. “I have travelled a few times when the cabins were in absolute darkness, which does become a bit scary.”
Not only scary, but smelly.
“There are many times where the coaches are nicely cleaned, then some days the cabin smells like urine and is filthy with litter. I sometimes feel like I’m a piece of garbage in a huge litter bin.”
Kessell watched in shock last week as an overloaded train pulled out of Cape Town with people hanging out of all the doors.
“The cherry on top was to see a few young men hanging on to the front of the train, facing the train driver,” he said. “All I could do was stare.”
Kessell said that trains mysteriously stopped between stations, sometimes for half an hour.
“Commuters become impatient so they try to exit the train in the middle of nowhere. I have witnessed young and old, men and women, climbing over the rubber sides between carriages.”
He saw one passenger climb off then narrowly miss being hit by a passing train.
Last week Metrorail reported problems on the southern, northern central and Cape Flats lines. Services to Cape Town from Kapteinsklip, Chris Hani, Khayelitsha and Retreat were cancelled. Trains from Heathfield to Cape Town were delayed.