Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has accused the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) of being “reckless and careless” by failing to protect the safety of rail commuters. 

This follows an attack on passengers on a train between Lynedoch and Eerste River on Friday evening, which resulted in the death of one person. 

In a statement issued on Sunday, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron said the city has now asked minister of transport Blade Nzimande to declare a state of emergency with regard to Cape Town’s rail services being under siege. 

Friday’s incident was one of several in recent months where commuters traveling on various lines in and around the city have come attack. 

The latest incident saw eight other commuters being robbed and thrown off the train, while a male passenger was stabbed in the head. He later died of his injuries. 

"I am shocked beyond words by the horrific details of this latest attack. Cape Town’s rail commuters, who are among the most vulnerable in our society, are facing an onslaught of violence on a daily basis. ”This latest incident has prompted me to publicly express my exasperation with the fact that to date the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has failed to pay their part of the funding that is needed for the special rail enforcement unit that the city is currently training. Prasa is placing the very service they need in jeopardy," Herron said.

He added that Prasa had signed a memorandum of agreement and committed to co-fund a special unit with the city and the Western Cape government to facilitate passenger safety, but that they had yet to fulfill their mandate. 

“The city and the provincial government had stepped up to the plate and offered unprecedented assistance to Metrorail commuters. 

“We have done so because our commuters are our residents and they are required to commute under unacceptable, dehumanising, and unsafe conditions," Herron said.

"Given that we are R16 million short, the city had to cut down on the number of recruits for this enforcement unit who will be focusing on the safety and security of Metrorail commuters and infrastructure. As local government, we are already going beyond our mandate to contribute and fund a solution that is the sole responsibility of national government," Herron said.

He added that he was awaiting a response from Nzimande regarding the R16m payment from Prasa for the project. 

"I also requested the minister to declare a state of emergency or disaster in so far as the rail service in Cape Town is concerned. 

“I did this so that the national government can deploy additional resources to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for the ongoing attacks and sabotage and to assist us to turn this service around and prevent it from total collapse,” Herron said. 

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Cape Times