Train services are set to resume. However, unions claim that there are numerous unresolved issues stemming from the prolonged lockdown. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Train services are set to resume. However, unions claim that there are numerous unresolved issues stemming from the prolonged lockdown. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Limited Metrorail trains to run despite Covid-19 challenges

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jul 1, 2020

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Cape Town - The United National Transport Union (Untu) says its doubts that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) will be ready to resume its limited train services today.

Acting general secretary, John Pereira, said issues reported to the union indicated that Prasa did not have enough time after its Covid-19 readiness budget by the Transport Department was approved last week, to attend to all the areas that have been neglected due to its cash flow constraints during the lockdown.

All Prasa services have been suspended since the start of lockdown. Pereira said Prasa planned on only resuming 15% of the normal capacity and to use marshals, to start with their duties today, to assist the Prasa protection services with crowd control, and said the police promised to assist Prasa by allocating 40 police officials nationwide.

He said that according to Untu members, they have run out of the required personal protective equipment.

They were not issued with facial masks but were given five litres of sanitiser to sanitise employees resuming their duties and to sanitise commuters.

Pereira said in Cape Town everything seemed ready to resume services on the southern corridor, but train drivers reported that there are not enough drivers to resume their duties.

“Because of the prolonged period they had to sit at home during the lockdown, the train drivers needed to do refresher training on the route before they could start driving again and they needed to undergo medical examinations. According to them, Prasa failed to pay the bill of the medical practitioners.”

He said the train control office, which authorises the drivers in the Western Cape, were closed on Tuesday after two Covid-19 positive cases were reported. However, the offices were disinfected and were scheduled to reopen today at 6am.

Prasa spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa said Prasa would strictly adhere to the Covid-19 hygiene protocols which include social distancing on platforms and inside trains. The wearing of masks would also be strictly enforced.

Mgitywa said the Western Cape line would operate between Cape Town and Retreat stations, with the morning peak service operating from 5am to 9am and the afternoon peak period from 9am to 3pm.

United Commuters Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said UCV was invited by the acting regional manager Raymond Maseko “who then with his team took us through the process in which commuters will be allowed to enter and exit the stations".

Jardim said they raised concerns about a few issues pertaining to new procedures commuters were expected to follow and the danger of spreading Covid-19.

“UCV warned that if the staff are not co-ordinated to control the flow of traffic in an orderly fashion then the trains must stop operations,” he said.

Jardim said there were a few issues which they highlighted such as sanitiser, misinformation of platforms and signal failures. However, he said they supported the tremendous effort put in by Metrorail and wished him and his team the best.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Prasa administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo and Prasa chief executive Nosipho Damasane inspected various sites belonging to Prasa ahead of the gradual resumption of its operations yesterday.

They observed the social distancing measures in place, sanitisation of the facilities and the use of personal protective equipment by officials.

@SISONKE_MD

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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