Cape Town - The formation of an enforcement unit to prioritise the safety and security of Metrorail commuters and infrastructure moved a step closer this week, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the City of Cape Town, along with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and the Western Cape provincial government.
This follows after a commitment was made during a rail summit convened and attended by the City’s transport and urban development authority (TDA), the Western Cape department of transport and public works, Prasa, rail experts and business leaders, in Woodstock in February.
According to a statement on Thursday, the cost to establish and operate the unit for a period of 12 months is approximately R47,9 million and would be jointly funded by the TDA, the Western Cape government, and Prasa.
"The unit will consist of at least 100 members and will focus on commuter safety as well as vandalism and the theft of crucial Metrorail infrastructure and assets. The unit’s members will rely on technology and crime intelligence and will support the South African police service to identify those who are involved in the illicit metals theft industry.
"The ultimate goal is to address the safety and security issues so that we can stabilise the urban rail service in the short term,’ said the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron.
The City will be responsible for the appointment and training of the law enforcement officers.
"Prasa is confident that rail commuters will benefit from an increased focus on safety," said acting Prasa Group executive Lindikaya Zide.
Metrorail Western Cape regional manager, Richard Walker said: "This initiative will support and assist in expediting our Prasa plans to professionalise and transform our own protection services department to a more effective, better skilled and equipped transit-oriented unit to combat crime.
"The unit will have a two-pronged focus, primarily to deal with the vandalism, theft and illegal trade of non-ferrous metal and copper, and secondly to increase visible policing on trains and stations for improved commuter safety."
The Metrorail Western Cape region will, from the current protection services unit, appoint and train 50 members who will form part of the new task team.
"From a Western Cape government point of view, the socio-economic and environmental benefit of a well-functioning rail service cannot be overstated," said Donald Grant, MEC of transport and public works and convener of the Rail Management Task Team.
"A functioning, safe and secure rail network has the potential to connect in a way that is inclusive, efficient, and competitive, providing access to opportunities to the City’s population.
"Rail is likely to remain the biggest mode of transport of Cape Town’s workforce, even though passenger numbers are on the decline.
"I have always been excited by the potential of rail to be the foundation of commuter transport through a safe and affordable service for those without cars, and as a viable alternative mode for car users," he said.
"Now is the time for inter-governmental cooperation in the spirit of the Constitution, and for the private sector and all other stakeholders to work with the government to improve the situation.
"Addressing security as an urgent priority will go a long way towards achieving this. The present and future commuters of Cape Town and this region deserve a functional and effective rail service that fulfils its potential," added Grant.
African News Agency/ANA