Tens of thousands of commuters on Metrorails busiest routes are being ferried by bus because of damage to cables. The damage has paralysed the service between Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. Photo: David Ritchie

Cape Town - Vandals “hell-bent on paralysing trains in the city” destroyed another four signal cables early on Friday morning, while Metrorail services remained sparse and thousands of commuters struggled to get to work.

The commuter nightmare began on Wednesday morning, when a gang of vandals stripped and cut cables and signal boxes along the major routes in Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Philippi and Mitchells Plain.

Cables in 25 areas were “butchered” early on Thursday morning and more cables destroyed on Friday, doing damage amounting to more than R2.5 million, the railway company said.

It was mayhem at Nyanga station again on Friday morning. It is one of the few stations on the Cape Flats still operating after 11 terminals were closed, and 15 trains pulled off the tracks.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said the vandals, presumed to be the same group who brought the central line to a halt on Wednesday when they damaged signal lines and boxes in the early morning, had struck again.

“They hit cables that had just been repaired at around 2:50 am on Friday,” said Walker.

“A train had not even gone through on those tracks before they destroyed the signal cables.”

Walker was speaking during a press briefing on a “media train” heading for Nyanga to survey the damage.

Walker said the vandalism couldn’t have come at a worse time as the railway company was just starting to turn around. “We have been dealt a serious blow.”

He said police investigating the matter had been handed as much evidence as possible and he expected arrests soon.

But despite the attempt to sabotage services, Walker said trains from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain would be operational by Monday morning.

Protecting trains and infrastructure from further sabotage attempts remained a challenge. While policing could curb vandalism, the criminals could move to other parts of Metrorail’s extensive network.

Walker hoped the introduction of CCTV cameras would help in the fight against vandals.

Cape Argus