Pictured is a security guard at Kapteinsklip station. The Central Line in Cape Town has been indefinitely suspended by Metrorail. Crime and vandalism have been cited as the reasons for Metrorail's decision. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), and the Western Cape Government on Friday agreed to establish a dedicated unit to secure the safety of Metrorail commuters and key infrastructure. 

Metrorail's Central Line, which serves largely poor and working class communities, has been out of action for four weeks since a security guard was murdered at the Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha.

According to a statement by the City of Cape Town, the unit will cost R45 million to run for a period of 12 months. It is foreseen that the memorandum of agreement between the parties will be finalised and signed within the next few weeks.

"The City is ready and willing to contribute R16 million to get this plan off the ground. I have asked the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA’s) acting commissioner to reprioritise projects and to find the money somewhere in our budget, and he did," said Brett Herron, the City's mayoral committee member for transport and urban development.

"I am grateful that we have agreed on a starting point to address the safety and security issues to stabilise the urban rail service in the short term. A lot still needs to happen, but I think we have achieved our goal for the summit by agreeing on a plan of action that can be implemented as soon as possible."

Acting chief executive of the rail division at Prasa, Mthuthuzeli Swartz, committed to contributing R3 million per month towards the management and deployment of the Metrorail security service which is set to number 1 500.

"The City is better equipped to efficiently deploy the security personnel than we are at this stage," said Swartz.

Metrorail in the Western Cape will be making use of the National Department of Environmental Affairs's new product which will be used to build a wall around the critical sections of the central line as it has been under attack for the past few months. 

The wall which is 15 kilometres in length will amount to 30 km of wall on both sides of the railway infrastructure and will be constructed with alien plant biomass and is fire-resistant, bulletproof, strong, quick to build, and cheaper than other options considered to date the statement said.

Swartz added: "Working together with all role-players is very important. This is why I attended this summit. There is no way that we cannot do what needs to be done. The City is better equipped to efficiently deploy the security personnel than we are at this stage. If we use the product from the National Department of Environmental Affairs we can save R20 million."

"This is money we can contribute to implement the pilot security plan to improve the safety of rail commuters and to protect our rail infrastructure and assets. Also, all of our efforts are focused on reinstating the Central line service during the coming week."

Drone technology to assist in monitoring criminal activity on the system will be deployed within days.

Metrorail Western Cape regional manager, Richard Walker said: "Now that criminals can be successfully caught and convicted, we call on communities to increase their reporting of criminal activity in and around railway precincts."

Western Cape MEC for Transport and Public Works Donald Grant said the benefits of a well functioning a rail service cannot be overstated.

"Rail has the potential to provide rapid access to social and economic opportunities for a broad cross-section of society, contributing to an efficient, competitive and inclusive city and helping to overcome some of the continuing spatial divides. 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 government to improve the situation," Grant said.

African News Agency/ANA