File Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures

Johannesburg - The United National Transport Union (Untu) scored a significant victory on Wednesday when the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) agreed to provide police escorts for its staff members on the volatile Cape Town Central Line. 

Untu and Prasa were locked in meetings until 9pm on Tuesday evening, negotiating terms in which to reopen the notorious Central Line in Cape Town.

Cape Town's busiest line running between Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to the CBD was suspended last week following the murder of a security guard at Chris Hani Station in Khayelitsha.

Tens of thousands of commuters were left stranded and forced to make alternative transport arrangements after Untu said its staff were not prepared to work on the line following the murder. 

The union, which represents the majority of employees working for Prasa, signed the agreement with the agency after it was agreed that the safety of employees is paramount. 

In terms the agreement, Untu said its members will only operate on the Central Line if, among other things, there are two police officers escorting the train driver, two police officers escorting the metro train guard, a police officer in the middle cab as back up, and armed guards at turnaround stations.

Untu also wants police officers to accompany the train crew from the roster office and that Prasa provides armed guards at all the "hot spot" train stations, including at Netreg, Bonteheuwel, Heideveld, Nyanga and Langa.

Prasa has promised that missing signals will be replaced and will be in full operation within 90 days, Untu said.

Steve Harris, general secretary of Untu, said that if Prasa or the SA Police Service fail to adhere to the agreement, the train service on the Central Line will be suspended again.

"This is what Untu has been demanding for the past two years. Although it is a relief for the employees working on the Central Line, one must never forget that five innocent workers paid with their lives because basic security measures were not met," Harris said.

Prasa's spokesperson Nana Zenani was not immediately available for comment, but the service on the Central Line is scheduled to resume on Wednesday afternoon.

African News Agency/ANA