Commuters were left stranded for at least two hours during the afternoon peak as vandalism caused major delays on all Metrorail lines in Cape Town. Picture: Phando Jikelo/Cape Argus

Cape Town - Metrorail has lost the battle to run an efficient service as vandals gain the upper hand, according to the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Chamber’s president, Janine Myburgh, slammed the efforts of passenger rail agency Prasa to ensure the safety of its infrastructure after vandalism again forced the closure of Metrorail services over the weekend, and still affected commuters by late Monday.

On Sunday, equipment, including 500 cables and cable housing, was damaged by vandals.

While services were restored by Monday morning, by Monday afternoon delays of more than two hours were still being experienced.

Myburgh said a new approach was needed, as traditional policing was proving to be a failure.

“How is it possible for vandals to defeat the best efforts of the railway police, the police and the private security firms employed to protect Metrorail property year after year?

“Vandals get bored after a while and find something else to do. We know that copper theft plays a role and that there are crime syndicates involved, but that does not explain the burning of coaches.

“There is no money to be made from arson, so there must be another reason.”

She said innovative thinking was needed as the attacks amounted to the sabotage of a service vital to the economy of the city.

“Earlier this year a survey of members found that about 85?percent of firms said staff were demotivated and productivity was affected and 90?percent said the resulting traffic congestion was costing them time and money.”

Metrorail said its technical teams, along with Transnet’s technical teams, had managed to restore “a measure of service but continue with further repairs”.

They said inbound and outbound trains would be subject to variable delays as the repairs neared finalisation.

Regional manager Richard Walker apologised to commuters: “The vandalism was a criminal act perpetrated by criminals with total disregard for the safe operation of trains and the safety of passengers.

“We suspended the service in the interest of passenger safety and thank the teams for their sterling efforts to restore services.”

Metrorail said it had not yet calculated the costs of the damage, but spokeswoman Riana Scott said the damage had affected all lines.

“Residual delays post-weekend vandalism, with 120 minutes delays on all lines, were expected. Some northern trains will be re-routed via Mutual.

“We recommend that anyone who has not yet bought their train ticket to opt for alternative transport, failing which we appeal for patience. We will continue to service stations until platforms are clear.”

Some commuters took to Facebook to post their dismay of the service on social media.

Sharon Jeneke said she had spent two hours waiting for a train at Athlone station on Monday, while Breda Shirley Michelle said she had boarded a train, but spent hours sitting in it waiting for it to get under way.

Shariefa Daniels said: “Black Friday, purple Saturday, yellow Sunday and definitely a blue Monday thanks to Metrorail.”

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Cape Argus