140731. Cape Town. An overcrowded train is seen leaving Nyanga Junction with people desperately trying to get to work. Metrorail fears if vandalism continues on its busiest line it may be forced to cancel its services on the route altogether. Cable signals were badly damaged on the Philippi line early on Wednesday morning on which thousands of commuters travel daily. With more than R2 million in damages and thousands of frustrated commuters, Metrorail says it’s dealing with a logistical and financial nightmare . Picture Henk Kruger

Cape Town - Prasa is considering shutting down the central line after vandals “butchered” Metrorail’s signal cables on Wednesday and halted trains between Philippi and Nyanga.

The central line operates along two routes from central Cape Town to Langa, and then splits into three branches, to Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, and Bellville via Belhar.

Mosenngwa Mofi, chief executive of Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of SA), said the cost of providing alternative services to commuters and repairing the damage was so high that Prasa might have to shut down the line.

“Our replacement costs are escalating beyond our control; these are monies we could be using to improve our service and upgrade our assets. Closing the central lines in the Western Cape may be the only solution to this pandemic.”

Prasa has doubled its reward to R50 000 for information to help bring the crooks to book.

“As a result of the theft and vandalism against our system, we have already spent a total of R382 million over the past three years.”

Mofi said four National Prosecuting Authority prosecutors would be appointed to deal with Metrorail cases.

“Our memorandum of understanding with the NPA demonstrates the seriousness with which we regard cable theft and vandalism of our assets which potentially destabilise the whole economy if commuters cannot get to their places of work.”

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said vandals hit several areas in quick succession starting from 2am. When Metrorail Protection Services officers gave chase, they were shot at.

Walker laid charges of sabotage and attempted murder with the police, and asked communities to rally behind Metrorail to expose the vandals.

“The guilty live among our customers and have family and friends in the communities,” he said. “They boast at taverns of what they’ve done. We want you to expose them to the police so we can stop this carnage.”

Transport MEC Donald Grant lambasted the vandals, saying they had “butchered” the signal cables. “Their acts have not only threatened the provision of reliable public transport to the hundreds of thousands that use trains daily in and around the city, but have also threatened the safety of commuters - obstructed signaling systems can have deadly consequences,” said Grant, pictured.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town’s Brett Herron urged stranded commuters to use the MyCiTi N2 express service to get to work.

Thursday is the last day to collect a free myconnect card from the Desmond Tutu Hall, the Khayelitsha Multipurpose centre or the Golden Arrow kiosk in Mitchells Plain.

Golden Arrow is also pitching in to get commuters to work. All passengers with a weekly or monthly train ticket can use it on Golden Arrow buses until trains resume their normal operations. However, Golden Arrow will only accept the train tickets between 8am and 3.30pm and between 6.30pm and 5.30am overnight.

“These restrictions are imposed in fairness to Golden Arrow customers and to avoid overcrowding,” said general manager Francois Meyer.

Golden Arrow will fit in additional trips in the areas of greatest need.

“We will continue to operate until all passengers waiting at bus stops have been assisted,” Meyer said.

Metrorail has said that repairs will take up to two days.

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Cape Argus