Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula will experience Cape Town’s collapsing rail transport system first-hand on his train ride from Khayelitsha to Cape Town this morning. Picture: Department of Transport/Twitter
Cape Town - Newly appointed Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula will experience Cape Town’s collapsing rail transport system first-hand when he travels on the notorious Central Line this morning.

Mbalula will ride a train from Chris Hani Station in Khayelitsha to Cape Town Station on Tuesday morning to interact with commuters and learn about their daily encounters and frustrations.

The Central Line rail corridor is known for a multitude of regular challenges, ranging from service delivery protests, the torching of coaches, taxi violence, sporadic stops due to manual movement authorisation, vandalism and damage to infrastructure, illegal connections, the mushrooming of informal settlements along the route and sewage disposal/encroachment.

Some of the minister's plans were tabled at the Africa Rail Conference in Joburg on Wednesday, where he said his department had embarked on the development of a rail policy framework for South Africa, and that the draft policy was in the form of a draft White Paper.

The #UniteBehind coalition movement has welcomed Mbalula’s ride and requested an urgent meeting to propose a plan to “#FixOurTrains”.

#UniteBehind spokesperson Matthew Hirsch said Mbalula must urgently ensure that commuter rail services were declared a national disaster.

“He must establish a permanent ethical, qualified, competent and appropriately skilled board with a commuter representative. This must be followed by the urgent appointment of permanent executive management with knowledge and experience of rail service complexity,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch said Mbalula must ensure that all state capture “culprits” were charged, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and their assets seized.

“He needs to establish a safety and security plan focused on commuters, particularly vulnerable people such as women, the disabled, the elderly and children.

“Set out a clear six-month plan to bring 2000 damaged coaches back into operation. This will mitigate the unconscionable delays and overcrowding,” he said.

Mayco member for transport Felicity Purchase said the City had requested a meeting with Mbalula, and “we are waiting a response from his office.

“As for the agenda, this will be determined once/if the minister is available to meet with us.”

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Cape Argus