File picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
Cape Town – The Cape Chamber of Commerce is furious at Metrorail for what it calls the unreliable public transport service it’s rendering, saying businesses were the victims because of the late arrival of workers and resultant loss of productivity.

“The traffic situation worsens when Metrorail system is in trouble and it is becoming clearer by the day that money which should have been spent on maintenance, security and modernisation has been consumed by corruption,” chamber president Janine Myburgh said on Tuesday.

“This is corruption of the worst kind and the people of Cape Town are feeling the pain,” she said.

Apparel Manufacturers of SA executive director Johann Baard said the Metrorail crisis would cause the death of the manufacturing industry in Cape Town. He said tens of millions of rand were lost annually.

“Employers suffer because retailers are cancelling orders or they take the order and impose penalties. Loss of production can’t be retrieved from workers. This is a highly competitive environment and requires a world-class transport system,” said Baard.

To add to the woes of Cape commuters, train drivers belonging to the United National Transport Union (Untu) have refused to operate trains on the busy Central Line used by commuters from areas such as Langa, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and Nyanga.

The union, representing nearly 50% of Metrorail’s parent body the Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (Prasa) employees, called for the rail company to suspend Metrorail services in those areas until the Western Cape High Court ruled on the union’s application against the agency over the safety of its members.

It was in talks with Prasa about their members’ plight on Tuesday.

Untu general secretary Steve Harris said: “Prasa is already experiencing a shortage of train drivers as several have resigned in the past financial year in pursuit of safe working conditions in the private sector."

“One of the core functions of a train driver is to focus on the signals to ensure rail safety, but due to ongoing attacks on train crews across the country, train drivers are forced to constantly be on the lookout for criminals. They struggle to focus on the signals.”

In recent weeks commuters had to endure an increase in train delays and cancellations, attributed to technical faults and cable theft.

Since the start of the year 28 carriages have been torched, Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said.

She said a new fleet of trains was anticipated in the next three years.

Apart from the age and obsolescence of the rolling stock and associated infrastructure, high levels of vandalism and theft impacted on the service.

She confirmed that Prasa acting chief executive Dries van der Walt was was in talks with Prasa on Tuesday about their members’ plight.

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Cape Argus