Picture: Supplied

Durban -  Thousands of train commuters across KwaZulu-Natal had to use alternative transport on Tuesday after all services were suspended by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) after angry commuters torched a train station in uMlazi on Friday.

Zama Nomnganga, spokesperson for Prasa said that all train services on all routes in KwaZulu-Natal have been suspended indefinitely. 

Sagren Naidoo, of Chatsworth, who had been utilising the train services for three decades between Durban and Crossmoor station, said he had to take a bus to work after being told there were no trains when he arrived at the station. 

Naidoo said the train services were getting worse and passengers had been stranded on more than one occasion either going to work or returning home. 

"Chatsworth commuters are sometimes offloaded at the Merebank train station. Sometimes we have to find alternative transport home in the evenings.  Sometimes we have to squeeze into already overpacked trains coming from uMlazi to Durban in the morning. It is an absolute nightmare," 

The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda will be meeting with the management of Prasa in Durban and the community of uMlazi to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Nomnganga said the reason for the suspension came after Friday's incident in J-Section uMlazi. 

A train, the ticket offices and four vehicles were set alight by angry commuters when the trains arrived late. 

On Tuesday, Durban Transport buses and minibus taxi ranks in uMlazi experienced large volumes of commuters.KwaMashu and passengers travelling from the northern areas also used alternative transport. 

Kaunda said he has convened an urgent meeting with Prasa to resolve the stand-off between train commuters in uMlazi and the rail parastatal. 

"Preliminary investigations reveal that commuters went on a rampage after experiencing train delays.  On Thursday, a female train driver was attacked in KwaDukuza (Stanger) by commuters and she is currently fighting for her life in hospital," he said. 

Kaunda has condemned the incidents and vowed that police will work around the clock to ensure that all those responsible for the damage of government property and the attack of a train driver will be brought to book. 

"We acknowledge that Prassa is experiencing some challenges with the rolling stock which results in delays. The current leadership of Prasa is addressing the challenges facing the utility," he added. 

Kaunda said that government viewed both the uMlazi and Stanger incidents as pure acts of criminality and the law enforcement agencies must ensure that the culprits who committed crime face the full might of the law.

 “No amount of anger can warrant damage to property whether public or private.  We have taken a decision that people who embark on illegal public protests and damage property must be charged criminally and be litigated individually,” said Kaunda. 

Kaunda said it was critical that stability returns so that trains can resume operations. 

Daily News