Arson attacks limit Metrorail’s services

Cape Town 160415 Train carriages alight at Woodstock station Photo by Michael Walker

Cape Town 160415 Train carriages alight at Woodstock station Photo by Michael Walker

Published Apr 18, 2016


Cape Town - Following several days of chaos at Metrorail stations across the city, Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters on Sunday called for an end to the violence, vandalism and criminality involving Metrorail trains in Cape Town.

“This cannot be allowed in a modern democracy such as ours, where individuals with ulterior motives undermine government commitment to modernise our rail system and turn it into a fertile ground for criminality,” said Peters.

The delays caused violence to erupt at Cape Town station on Friday, with police firing rubber bullets at frustrated commuters.

Several incidents of arson this month have resulted in reduced services on Monday.

On Sunday night, Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said: “People depend on trains and Metrorail will continue to transport them, even under difficult circumstances.”

Metrorail has linked the attacks on its trains to illegal strike action by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, who are calling for higher salaries, the permanent employment of fixed contract workers, and an end to outsourcing.

Referring to the attacks as a “siege”, Walker said Metrorail would be applying for another interdict against the striking workers.

Given the impact of the strike, the vandalism and continued threats of intimidation against employees, Metrorail would only be offering a limited, less frequent service on Monday in the central service area.

Trains on the Cape Flats and southern service area were expected to operate as usual, while delays and cancellations were expected on the northern lines due to reduced capacity as a result of vandalism and arson. Walker said the police, Metrorail Protection Services and other law enforcement agencies remained on high alert and would continue to monitor the situation around the clock.

Additional measures have also been put in place to prevent further damage.

Metrorail advised commuters to consult social media feeds and listen to station announcements for the latest service status.

In the wake of last week’s chaos, the city’s mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, said there would be an additional deployment of MyCiTi buses on the N2 express route between Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha and Cape Town, to assist commuters affected by the delays.

Golden Arrow would also be deploying additional buses on routes across the city. “The Golden Arrow Bus Service has kindly agreed to add as many additional buses as they can during the morning and afternoon peak hours of Monday, April 18.

“The City’s transport authority will also deploy between six and eight additional MyCiTi bus trips… during the peak hours,” said Herron.

The additional buses would be deployed as long as the situation required them.

Metrorail has been battling several attacks on its trains over the past 10 days.

On April 9, an arson attack at Cape Town station destroyed two trains and 10 carriages. Last Thursday at around midnight, another train and four carriages were set alight at Kraaifontein station, while on Friday, two carriages were set on fire at Esplanade station in Woodstock.

Further delays were caused by a rail death between Wittebome and Wynberg stations, and vandalism and theft left commuters stranded on the northern and central lines.

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Cape Argus

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