Metrorail blues for Cape commuters

Published Apr 15, 2016

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Siyabonga Kalipa and Tara Longardner

Cape Town - A train and four carriages were set alight at midnight on Thursday night and defective signals were reported, bringing trains on at least two lines in Cape Town to a grinding halt this morning for over two hours.

Hundreds of commuters were forced to alight from halted trains on Friday morning and started to walk to work along the tracks.

It is alleged that South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) carried out industrial action affecting the signals.

Police spokeswoman Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed that a case of malicious damage to property in relation to the burning trains at Kraaifontein Station had been opened for investigation. She said no injuries had been reported and n one had been arrested.

Metrorail’s Riana Scott said initial reports indicate that an unknown person was also hit by a train between Wynberg and Wittebome at 8.20am on Friday morning.

Last week Metrorail’s Satawu-affiliated workers were planning on going on strike but called it off after the company obtained a court interdict.

Then last Saturday night, an arson attack destroyed two trains and 10 carriages at Cape Town Station. The damage caused severe delays this week and cost millions of rands.

Satawu’s Luntu Sokutu said on Friday morning that the union had started to strike on Wednesday, despite the earlier interdict, after some of their members were suspended for being involved in last week’ planned action.

“We obeyed their court order last week, but after they suspended some of our members we couldn’t just sit down and do nothing,” he said.

Sokutu said they would continue with the strike until those suspended are back at work and their demands are met.

On Friday morning hundreds of angry commuters were forced to wait for trains after the train signals at Netreg failed to function.

John Darril from Netreg said he boarded the train about 6am and then found himself walking down the line at 9am.

“This is really frustrating especially because there's nothing one can do about it,” he said. “I’m very late and this happens everyday with trains… if it’s not this it’s that with their service.”

He said he should have been at work at 7.30am and now that he was late his pay would be deducted.

Bulelani Gledi, who had just finished night shift, said he understood that Metrorail workers were supposed to strike last week and he was surprised that they decided to strike on Friday morning.

“I’m working again tonight and I need to be home resting for tonight’s shift but instead I’m stuck here,” said Gledi.

He said he ran the risk of losing his job if he fell asleep.

Satawu is calling for higher salaries, permanent employment of fixed contract workers, and an end to outsourcing.

Cape Argus

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