Johannesburg - About 5km of rail track was stolen from under the nose of a train company that repairs Metrorail carriages in Ekurhuleni.
Thumbu Mahlangu, member of the Ekurhuleni mayoral committee for roads and transport, said on Wednesday morning that metal thieves had used blowtorches to cut the track leading to the depot in Nigel.
He said officials from his department had visited the Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW) depot on Monday to inspect the site of the stolen tracks, which had been taken over about a week.
“They’re experts. Where they’re cutting, they’re not making mistakes,” Mahlangu said.
Initially, the length of rail track stolen was believed to be 2km. “It’s more than that, it’s 5km actually,” he said.
The theft meant that no trains could enter or exit the depot, with several carriages now stuck inside.
He said he had been informed that five men had been arrested in connection with the theft after they were found to be in possession of gas bottles used for blow torches.
UCW had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Mahlangu said UCW was responsible for repairs and maintenance of Metrorail trains, a division of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
“Our operations are not affected,” Prasa spokeswoman Lillian Mofokeng said on Wednesday morning. The carriages that were at the depot were not in operation anyway.
Mahlangu said he was unsure how the thieves had managed such a brazen heist as the depot was operational.
He said it was believed the theft had taken place at night.
In a separate matter, Metrorail trains were delayed across the East Rand on Wednesday morning due to cable theft and defective crossing points. The theft affected the routes between Germiston, Daveyton, Springs and Isando, among others.