Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - DA leaders, who spent an hour in an “excessively” overloaded Metrorail train in Durban on Monday said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) was to blame for subjecting commuters to inhumane conditions on a daily basis.

DA MPs, Phumzile Van Damme, Dean MacPherson and John Steenhuisen caught a 6.20am train from uMlazi, south of Durban, to Durban Station to get a first-hand experience of what commuters go through every day on their way to and from work. They also took the journey to convince commuters to vote for the DA.

“We found people at the station waiting for a train that was supposed to arrive at 5.55am. Others had been there for a 5.45am train. Both those trains had not arrived.

“The train eventually arrived at about 6.40am,” Van Damme said.

She described the train as overwhelmingly full. “People were riding in between the carriages.”

She said the commuters also complained about train shortages which she blamed on a series of allegations of corruption levelled at Prasa.

“Because of that corruption, there aren’t enough trains. The train was very, very full. A lot of the people were also saying the trains are always late and they are then late for work and get written warnings.

“The trip (from uMlazi to Durban Station) was 45 minutes, and lots of passengers told us that sometimes a train just stops along the way (not at the platform) and they have to get a taxi to continue with their journey.”

Since Prasa was failing to efficiently run a train service it should hand over the fleet to metro municipalities “who would be able to provide a better service and make sure that the trains are on time”, she said.

“It is quite clear that Prasa is unable to manage a daily commuter service via Metrorail. In Cape Town trains have been burnt and this has had a huge impact on the Cape Town economy because people rely on trains to get to work. The commuters’ outrage is justifiable because if I take a train every morning and I’m supposed to be at work at 7 am, and the train only arrives at 7 am, I would be angry,” she said.

DA parliamentary Chief Whip leader John Steenhuisen said people raised concerns about the lack of security officers on platforms and inside coaches. “Women particularly, feel very, very vulnerable as their handbags are stolen, and people grab their bags as they jump off the train. If there were security at platforms they’d be able to prevent that.”

Prasa spokesperson Zama Nomnganga said security guards were available at all train stations. “They (guards) are not always inside the coaches, but they at times come in unexpectedly.

“The trains are overloaded and late because they break down as they are old. But people also add to this by stealing cables,” he said.

He said commuters could be provided with a letter to inform their employers why they were late. The long term solution was to fence in the railway line.

Political Bureau