Prasa regional manager, Richard Walker addressing Unite Behind members outside Cape Town train station. PHOTO: Ayanda Ndamane/ANA

CAPE TOWN - Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) regional manager, Richard Walker, on Thursday said a number of actions and plans have been put in place to expedite recovery of operational services at Prasa.

Walker addressed members of the Unite Behind organisation who protested at the Cape Town train station, calling on Prasa to take swift recovery reaction to its troubled services which has affected thousands of commuters in and around the city.

“We currently challenged on whole range of areas. On the main is the number of trains that we’re running, we are supposed to have 88 train sets and we are currently sitting below 40 train sets in service,” said Walker.

“We have serious infrastructure related issues and we have put a number of actions and plans already in place to look at how do we expedite the issue of recovering the coaches and bringing them back into service,” he said.

Walker said he and the Prasa group chief executive visited contractors helping with repair work on the coaches last week to assess their capacity to take on more coaches so the recovery process can be fast-tracked.

He added that as Prasa they understood the challenges that the commuters faced on daily basis as rail services in the Western Cape were the most affordable service that most of the commuting public relied on.

“We understand the challenges that are there with the system. Rail services in the Western Cape is the most affordable service that most of the commuting public in the Western Cape relays on the daily basis, kids need to go to school, people need to get to work and people need to get to hospitals and other amenities and they can’t afford any other means of transport, therefore, it’s important that, from where we’re sitting as Prasa, we need to ensure that we put everything in place,” said Walker.

He said the problem had already been escalated to national level and that transport minister Blade Nzimande had attended to the issue and had engaged with stakeholders.

“We visited some of the sites where we experience some of these challenges and there has already been a rescue plan that the group CEO has presented to the board and that plan needs to be finalised which will look at the critical issues that need to be addressed and in due course, the detail of that plan will also be communicated to all stakeholders.

“But whilst we are doing that, our efforts to recover, whilst we were talking to a contractor in Brackenfell, we got a call on Friday that a train of ours was burning in Mbekweni station, and not long after that, another train was burning at Fairgrove, and another train set was also set alight in Cape Town station,” he told the protestors," he said.

“Now, these are the challenges that we do have and we also need to get behind to find out why is there an interest from certain people or certain groupings to destroy state-owned infrastructure. The very same infrastructure that is supposed to commute or to transport people in an affordable and safe manner, and its those efforts which undermine whatever we do as Prasa to bring coaches back to service.

"We would like to commit to you and tell you one of our priorities as management within Prasa is to make sure that we turn this situation around and we will be in due course communicating on the detail of the rescue plan that is being finalised," he added.

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African News Agency (ANA)