David Biggs laments the current rail infrastructure and says that he still thinks that an efficient suburban rail system would add enormous value to city life, reducing travel costs and congestion. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)
David Biggs laments the current rail infrastructure and says that he still thinks that an efficient suburban rail system would add enormous value to city life, reducing travel costs and congestion. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

An efficient, safe suburban rail system is sorely lacking

By David Biggs Time of article published Apr 23, 2021

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I was puzzled by a headline in Monday’s Argus.

Sharp drop in train usage a concern,” it said. Well, I live along a suburban railway line and I’m not surprised to hear there’s been a “sharp drop” in train usage.

There hasn’t been a train on this line for a year or more. No wonder it isn’t used.

There was a time when I travelled to work and back by train every day. My children used to catch the train to school and back. The convenient train service was a major selling point for houses in this part of the peninsula. No wonder its loss is causing “concern”.

Now the lines are rusting and only an occasional hiker uses the track as a walking path, stepping from sleeper to sleeper. We were told the line was closed because of “sand on the tracks”.

Nobody blamed the closure on Covid-19, which is the standard go-to excuse for all failures these days. I suggested in this column some time ago that the sand-on-the-track problem might be solved by a labourer-with-a shovel solution, but I guess that was too complicated for the authorities to handle.

I still think an efficient suburban rail system would add enormous value to city life, reducing travel costs and congestion. Commuters would arrive at work relaxed and alert after completing the morning crossword puzzle, rather than angry and frustrated after battling with rush-hour traffic and paying for a parking space.

The main problem, I think, would be passenger safety. In these hungry times, we would need efficient security guards on all suburban trains. Rail passengers are sitting ducks for muggers. We do, however, need to create jobs. About half our population is currently unemployed.

Imagine the number of jobs that would be created if every suburban rail carriage had a trained security guard keeping a watchful eye over the commuters. They could even be armed with shovels left over after clearing the sand off the rails.

Last Laugh

Joe set off for a round of golf with his friend in the morning and his wife made him promise to be home by 4pm to take her shopping.

She waited patiently as 4pm passed, then 5pm and finally after 6pm Joe came home looking exhausted. His wife was furious.

“Where the hell have you been?” she yelled.

“A terrible thing happened. As we reached the first green Sam had a heart attack and dropped down dead,” Joe said.

“Oh, that’s horrible,” she said, feeling bad for having scolded him.

“Yes,” he said, “from then on it was hit the ball, drag Sam, hit the ball, drag Sam, hit the ball …”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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