Cape Town-110222-The Cape Town train station has been renovated just before the 2010 Soccer World Cup.The Adderley street entrance where KFC and OK is some of the new shops at the new train station.Photo Melinda Stuurman Reporter

Cape Town - By next week commuters at Cape Town Station will have free access to wi-fi on its platforms – a first for any rail station in the country.

In an interview with the Cape Times on Tuesday Metrorail Western Cape manager Mthuthuzeli Swartz said the wi-fi was a new addition to their plan to turn around their service.

“We will have wi-fi on Cape Town Station. This will give our commuters some fun to do while they wait for their trains.”

Two months ago the rail operator received R233-million to effect immediate improvements to the service which had been plagued by train delays, safety problems and decaying infrastructure.

“Together with the wi-fi roll-out we will also launch a mobile app which commuters can use to track where a train is and be up to date with any problems or incidents.”

Swartz said they were planning to roll out wi-fi to all the stations on the southern line, which stretches from Cape Town to Muizenberg.

“The next phase would be to get the wi-fi on board the trains. They (commuters) will then be able to track a train’s performance while on board. So if a train stops in the middle of nowhere we would then be able to know why the train is standing still. The same goes for when a train knocks someone down or there is some sort of incident,” he said.

Metrorail would carry the cost of all equipment and the connection fee.

“We will of course limit commuters to a certain amount of megabytes. If commuters want more they would have to buy more megabytes. For now we are only implementing this in the southern region because it’s the shortest distance from Cape Town,” he said.

“This is a pilot project, so we will roll this out to other regions as far as possible. The central line (Philippi and Bonteheuwel) are getting the new trains with all the best refinements.

“The other areas of the region will also receive wi-fi as time goes on.”

Swartz said R17m of the R233m they received two months ago had so far been spent on new rail tracks.

“We have ordered 252 rails and they are currently in Kimberley (on its way) so we are expecting them in a week or two. Then the work will start.

“We need 352 rails and they will be ordered at a later stage,” he said.

Despite the improvements, security issues and train delays remain a sore point for the rail operator.

“We have received 200 complaints which relate to train cancellations and train delays.

“Commuters reported 53 inadequate security issues to us. The police have reported that there were four robbery incidents on our trains.

“Theft of our assets stands at eight incidents so far and so far we have had train casualties.” Swartz said criminals near the Somerset West and Firgrove stations had stolen the rail clips that hold the steel track to the concrete or wooden sleeper underneath.

Philippi, Belhar and Cape Town stations had become hot spots.

A major plus for Metrorail, Swartz said, was a 12.4 percent increase in revenue collection. - Cape Times

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