Cape Town-140602-Angry Metrorail passengers wait to get a letter to hand to their employers, confirming that the trains had been delayed. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - Train delays are having such an impact on commuters that Metrorail is giving some of them letters to show their employers why they are late for work.

Goodwood resident Mandy Oosthuizen was almost four hours late for work on Monday. She boarded her usual train at 7.15am from Goodwood to Cape Town, but was on it for more than three hours. To prove to her employer why she was late she approached the Metrorail ticket office at Cape Town station and was given a letter confirming the delays. She has to do this at least twice a week.

Outgoing Metrorail Western Cape regional manager Mthuthuzeli Swartz said Monday’s delays were worse than usual because a signal was vandalised near Ysterplaat. He said the letters were standard practice and were available at all stations when there were delays.

Oosthuizen said she was paid per hour and lost earnings whenever trains were delayed. She has had two warnings from her employers and feared losing her job. Five months pregnant, she travelled by train because she did not feel safe travelling by taxi.

As commuters faced train delays on Monday, Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich vowed to oppose Metrorail’s fare increase of 5.6 percent at the start of next month. He also threatened Cosatu would call for a strike and said the increase would be resisted until train services improved.

“The present service has seen workers arrive late at work, with loss of income and disciplinary action taken against them,” said Ehrenreich.

Swartz said Metrorail had since last week communicated its fare increase with Cosatu.

Metrorail was making a huge effort to improve its service but needed the increased fares, he said, adding that if fares were not increased now, a bigger increase might be considered next year.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry transport committee chairman Peter Hugo said he sympathised with Metrorail because the rail service was trying to fix the problem.

Hugo said the committee had received several complaints, specifically from small businesses, which said many of their employees arrived late. But the committee also worked closely with Metrorail to overcome the problem.

“They have these plans, but it’s going to take time. It’s almost as though it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Hugo said and added that small businesses felt the pinch.

Transport MEC Donald Grant’s spokesman, Siphesihle Dube, said Metrorail was a business entity and must make money to be sustainable.

“Fare increases are part of their ability to sustain the business, and deliver on their public transport mandate,” he said. He added that Metrorail’s challenges were well known, but improvements must be accelerated.

“On-time records must improve, and infrastructure and operations must be conducive to the safe and reliable transportation of their commuters,” said Dube.

Cape Times