File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Unions doubt Metrorail's ready to roll after two Covid-19 cases at control office

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Jul 1, 2020

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Cape Town – Unions representing Metrorail workers have expressed their doubts over the company's plans to protect its employees and commuters, saying the train control office (TCO) responsible for authorising the drivers in the province was closed yesterday after two Covid-19 cases were reported.

The offices were expected to be reopened today after being sanitised, according to the United National Transport Union (Untu).

This comes as trains are expected to run with drastically limited services from today after the service was halted for three months due to national lockdown regulations.

As a result of the lockdown and vandalism, only four lines will be operational nationally, with limited travel times and sale of tickets, according to Metrorail spokesperson in the Western Cape, Riana Scott.

She said Retreat along the Southern Line would be the first section that would operate in the province, based on the infrastructure that could still accommodate the service.

Out of 18 stations, five would remain closed.

“Trial operations start tomorrow (until Friday). The trial trips will stress-test operational plans for the limited service developed to comply with Covid-19 level regulations; educate commuters in compliance; and to also test contingency plans.

“Only single tickets will be sold during trials. Sold-out notices will be displayed once all the available tickets at a particular station have been sold.

“Gradual service resumption starts with a limited service being officially introduced on July 6. The limited service operates Monday to Saturday with no service on Sundays,” said Scott.

Morning peak service will be between 5am and 9am while the afternoon peak period will be between 3pm and 7pm.

Scott said the turnaround times of the trains at the terminal and end stations would be longer out of necessity because the trains need to be disinfected.

Trains have been specially marked with signs indicating social-distancing metres inside and outside the train stations.

However, Untu’s acting general secretary John Pereira said they had received a number of reports of serious problems on the ground level.

“The issues that have been reported indicate that Prasa did not have enough time – after its Covid-19 readiness budget by the Department of Transport was approved last week – to attend to all the areas that have been neglected due to its cash flow constraints during the lockdown.” 

Pereira said their members reported that they had run out of the required personal protective equipment (PPE). They were not issued with facial masks but were given a can of five litres of sanitiser to sanitise employees resuming their duties and to sanitise commuters, Pereira said. 

“In Cape Town, the Southern Corridor will resume, but train drivers report that there are little of them who can resume their duties. Because of the prolonged period they had to sit at home during the lockdown, the train drivers need to do refresher training on the route before they can start driving again and they need to undergo medical examinations. 

“According to them, Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of SA) failed to pay the bill of the medical practitioners.” 

Agency spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa said: “Prasa will prioritise the Covid-19 hygiene protocols which include on-board social distancing on the trains as well as on the platforms, and the mandatory wearing of face masks for all rail passengers in the stations and inside the trains. 

“No hawkers will be allowed to operate as a measure to manage social distancing. Passengers are also encouraged not to travel when feeling unwell but to rather stay home and self-isolate.” 

Meanwhile, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) has yet to give an update on whether they would push their members to operate at 100% capacity. 

The national structure on Sunday called on members to work at maximum capacity, despite disaster regulations stating they may operate at only 70%. Santaco said yesterday they would provide an update on the meeting soon.

Cape Times

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