File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Rail safety authorities shifted their focus to train patrols and opposing bail this past week following a recent increase in reported robberies of commuters.

Thirteen suspects were arrested for damage to infrastructure, attempted cable theft, trespassing and for being in possession of drugs, among other crimes.

The arrests by Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) Protection Services, the SAPS Rapid Rail Response Unit and private security contractors were in terms of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act.

A total of 42 court cases were attended to and bail applications were successfully opposed, meaning all suspects remain in custody while awaiting trial.

In response to public complaints and operational risk, 17 structures on Prasa property were dismantled in a section between Bellville and Parow, and 31 occupants were removed. The teams also patrolled 938 trains and searched 1 427 people.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said: “We have noted that criminals tend to move to other areas when enforcement closes in on their territory.

“The reports of a spike in incidents in the north is concerning and the teams will therefore continue to focus on the northern line to ensure that we rid the trains and stations of thugs.”

At a Metrorail briefing last week, Walker encouraged commuters to report all incidents, as they have received reports each week from disgruntled ­commuters who had been robbed.

Transport Mayco member Felicity Purchase said commuters’ safety and security was their top priority.

“The Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) is making steady progress, and I’m eager to see more commuters making use of the trains as the service stabilises over time,” she said.

“I also want to appeal to residents to please report suspicious activities and to work with us.”

Transport and Public Works MEC and Rail Management Task Team chairman Donald Grant said: “Addressing safety, which is the task of the REU, has become key to restoring confidence in the rail network.

“As the REU’s work continues to make the rail network safer, we hope they will be encouraged to use what remains the most affordable mode of public transport in the metro area.”

Cape Times