Ongoing electrical faults on the already dilapidated railway infrastructure are crippling train services with working trains suspended almost everyday leaving commuters stranded. Picture Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
Ongoing electrical faults on the already dilapidated railway infrastructure are crippling train services with working trains suspended almost everyday leaving commuters stranded. Picture Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Another blow to Cape Town’s crippling train service

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published May 7, 2021

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Cape Town - Ongoing electrical faults on the already dilapidated railway infrastructure are crippling train services with working trains suspended almost everyday leaving commuters stranded.

This after Metrorail announced the suspension of the Monte Vista railway line this week due to electrical faults, with spokesperson Zino Mihi saying their engineers were still busy trying to solve the problem.

United National Transport Union (Untu) spokesperson Sonja Carstens said the union has been very concerned about the situation, because it had a severe impact not only on the commuters but on the whole of Cape Town, especially their members who were the employees.

Carstens said the problem was that there was too much electricity coming through the overhead cables to the motor coaches hence creating a very dangerous situation.

She urged the City to immediately attend to the problem and rectify the technicalities on their side so that the services could resume, "because the substations supplying the electricity belong to the City“.

"Everyday when these trains are standing, not only is the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) losing money but commuters are stranded; this is why we need the assistance from all stakeholders. Prasa is dependent on the municipality to repair the overhead cable so that the electricity voltage is rectified," said Carstens.

The City of Cape Town has pointed out that it is not involved at all and that the substations are supplied by Eskom.

United Commuters' Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said: "Metrorail is regurgitating the same problems and it is deeply concerning that they are covering up the real problems at the expense of the commuters."

Transport and Public Works committee chairperson in the provincial legislature, Daylin Mitchell, said the perpetual problems experienced by the railways were crippling the service.

Mitchell said it was time that Prasa delivered on its promises with respect to the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Western Cape government.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said in the short term Prasa was undertaking the rail infrastructure programme upgrade to the tune of R1.8 billion and R2 billion respectively.

Parliament's portfolio committee on transport chairperson Mosebenzi Zwane said the Department of Transport and its entities presented annual performance plans to the committee this week, where they were told that the bulk of the budget has been allocated to the SA National Roads Agency and Prasa.

Zwane said those investments should benefit primarily those people who commute to work using public transport, and that the two entities should fulfil their mandate without fail.

He said the committee noted the department’s planned programmes and the excitement about the roll-out of stock and the revival of rail infrastructure.

"The success of these plans will be accessed based on what the department and Prasa achieve on Cape Town’s central line as well as the Mabopane line in Gauteng," he said.

Cape Argus

Update: A previous version of the story implied that the substations supplying the electricity belonged to the City. The City has pointed out that it was not involved at all and that the substations referred to were supplied by Eskom. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

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