Yesterday, Prasa in KwaZulu-Natal took the media on a site visit to view the problems it was facing on the line between Durban and uMlazi stations.
In Zwelethu and Lindokuhle in uMlazi, shacks have been built on embankments metres away from the railway line on both sides of the tracks.
Shack dwellers also dump their waste on the railway and have illegal power connections running under the train tracks.
Prasa spokesperson Zama Nomnganga said the municipality needed to intervene as shacks being built close to railways and the dumping of waste were compromising the train service.
He said engineers were unable to access the railway when they needed to carry out repairs, as shacks had blocked the entrance.
“The track formation must remain dry so that the trains won’t be affected. People pour water on the railway, causing it to be slippery, which makes the trains unstable.
“Another issue is that there are dangerous, illegal electricity connections which run under the railway from one area to another.”
He added that Prasa was experiencing several problems with maintaining the track in Zwelethu and Lindokuhle.
“We worked more than two weeks in Zwelethu area after the floods as most of the shacks were washed on to the railway. People are also digging close to the edge of the embankment to create space for them to build shacks. This is really making our job difficult,” he said.
Shacks have also been built on top of the Lindokuhle railway tunnel.
Lindokuhle councillor Amon Dladla, said the shacks along the railway line had been there since the early nineties and they had requested the municipality and Prasa to intervene.
“We are aware that it is very dangerous to live there, especially because there are children and they cross the railways and some play on the tracks. We have also been providing people with plastic bags so that they will dump their waste properly, but since it is an informal settlement, Durban Solid Waste trucks don’t go that far to pick up waste,” said Dladla.
Nomnganga said that if the province experienced heavy rains again, a huge amount of damage would occur, especially in Zwelethu and Lindokuhle. He said this would result in the shutdown of train services in uMlazi.
He added that the damage to tracks also put the lives of commuters at risk.
“If something happens to the commuters, we will be to blame, yet the community don’t look after the railways.”
Nomnganga urged the community to respect and look after their trains and also called upon children to refrain from “train surfing”. In April, two young boys from KwaMashu were hit by a train while playing this game.
Some children risk their lives by riding on top of moving trains or playing on railway lines. It is alleged that the children lie on their backs or do push-ups on the railway track, and only get up once a train approaches.
“We are going to schools in uMlazi, KwaMashu and other areas where we educate people, especially kids, about the danger of playing on railways and on top of trains.”
EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city was working on identifying areas affected and assisting all residents affected by the floods, with the assistance of ward councillors.