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Cape Town - Commuters who hang out of Metrorail trains could land up in jail, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has warned.
“We have taken a decision to strengthen our enforcement against commuters hanging on the outside of our trains, putting their lives at risk and opening Metrorail to unsafe operating practices,” Prasa chief executive Mosenngwa Mofi said last week.
“Our trains will only depart from platforms once all the doors have been closed with no commuter hanging on the outside of the train. We will arrest and prosecute anyone caught hanging on the outside,” Mofi said.
Prasa spokeswoman Nana Zenani said 17 people fell to their deaths in the past year because they either were hanging out of a train or fell out of broken train doors that had been vandalised.
Zenani said the national strategy to place security guards on every platform was still in its trial phase.
“We started in Gauteng last week. Over the next three weeks, Cape Town can expect to see security guards at each station. We will see how it works and then go national.”
Zenani said Prasa had, in line with Rail Safety Regulator requirements, implemented a “closed-door policy” about two years ago, which had not been successful because some commuters had continued to vandalise doors and keep them open while the train was moving.
Mofi admitted train set shortages had resulted in overcrowding, but this did not justify trains operating in “perilous conditions”.
“We have been candid about the chronic shortage and unreliability of our trains, which is why the expected new trains in 2015/16 is such a welcome relief. We are, however, making no concessions when it comes to unsafe travelling practices which have become prevalent,” Mofi said.
He said thousands of rand had already been spent fixing broken doors and windows.
“The acute vandalism of our assets is unacceptable as no other transport system has allowed such a practice on its service. This is a culture spanning many years which we attribute to plain bad behaviour and we are calling for an immediate end to it.”
Last month, Metrorail regional manager Mthuthuzeli Swartz acknowledged commuters’ complaints about a lack of security.
“Additional money will be used to expedite the procurement of safety-critical equipment to restore track infrastructure,” he said.