South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) logo. File Image/ANA

CAPE TOWN - The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) on Monday said it was calling on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to accelerate its modernisation programme after commuters went on a rampage in Soweto, Johannesburg, last week.

Commuters stoned trains and set fire to cars belonging to Metrorail staff after trains were delayed on Friday morning.

“In response, Prasa suspended the service until Sunday, saying the delay was due to cable theft. But our members at the rail agency say the delay was as a result of a panel out, which is due to Prasa’s ageing infrastructure and therefore should not have been blamed on the train crew,” said the union in a statement.

“A panel out is when the person keeping watch over the train at the control centre is unable to see it on the system, making it difficult for him/her to direct its movement, which then forces the driver to wait for manual authorisation to avoid collisions.

“Though Satawu condemns the behaviour displayed by commuters at Naledi station on Friday, we understand their frustration with Prasa’s inadequate service. In fact, we raised this issue with the recently appointed CEO Sibusiso Sithole at a bilateral meeting held in early July.”

Satawu said it calls on Prasa to accelerate its modernisation programme in order to improve its service to commuters. At the same time, commuters must realise that burning and damaging property whenever there is a delay or interruption in service sets society back economically and otherwise.

“We cannot develop further as a country if we keep having to rebuild and replace infrastructure that has been purposely damaged. As a society we must find better ways of protesting and raising our concerns,” Satawu said.

- African News Agency (ANA)