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Cape Town - Trade union federation Cosatu has warned Metrorail it could face the full wrath of its union members unless the passenger rail company reverses a fare increase and immediately improves its notoriously poor levels of service.
Cosatu provincial general secretary Tony Ehrenreich led a small delegation of about 30 union members who handed over a memorandum of demands to Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker at the Cape Town train station on Saturday morning.
Cosatu called for Metrorail to reverse a price increase which kicked in on July 1. The trade union federation said the increase could not be justified until Metrorail dramatically improved its services.
By Metrorail’s own admission, the company has failed to consistently provide working and on-time trains for commuters due to a lack of investment over the past 50 years.
The memorandum read: “We are taking action against Metrorail to show our dissatisfaction with bad service, unreliable trains and fare increases. It is criminal that Metrorail has taken so long to replace these old, decrepit carriages of death.”
The memorandum’s demands included no more late trains, increased security, improved maintenance on tracks and signalling, and buses at overcrowded stations.
Cosatu gave Metrorail 48 hours to respond to the demands, or threatened that it would call on all its members to protest.
Walker accepted the memorandum on behalf of the company and said it would respond by the deadline.
“Metrorail and its parent company Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of SA) are addressing the issues, but there has been no investment in the rail system for 50 years. We have started the acquisition of new trains and new infrastructure, but the new system will only be fully operational in the next 15 to 20 years,” said Walker.
Metrorail had tapped into R500 million made available by Prasa to take care of immediate problems.
Ehrenreich said Metrorail was unjust in demanding more money, despite deteriorating levels of service. “If an aeroplane company buys new planes it doesn’t tell its passengers to give money to buy new planes first, so why should the working class have to?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Lotta Mayana, chairman of the Sobahlangula human rights group, said some of its supporters were denied access to Metrorail trains when they tried to attend the handover of the memorandum on Saturday. Walker said he would investigate.