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Transport minister urged to declare war on train arsonists after launching war room

THE City’s fire and rescue service personnel attend to a burning train at Van Der Stel station in Somerset West. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE City’s fire and rescue service personnel attend to a burning train at Van Der Stel station in Somerset West. Picture: SUPPLIED

Published Aug 12, 2019

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Cape Town - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has launched a war room to fix the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) mess, but he is facing pressure to declare war on train arsonists targeting Western Cape passenger trains.

On Thursday, another train was set alight - this time in Somerset West - on the same day that Mbalula launched his ministerial war room.

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Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott confirmed that two carriages, part of train number 3219 en-route to Strand, caught alight on Thursday at the Van der Stel Station at 3.50pm.

Scott said fire and rescue services managed to contain the fire.

“Police, Metrorail technical, operations and security teams were on-site to investigate the incident.”

#UniteBehind spokesperson Matthew Hirsch said they needed qualified and properly trained security guards on trains and at stations, operating on legitimate contracts.

He said 2000 carriages remained in depots waiting to be fixed, and could be a solution to alleviating a rail system plagued by delays and cancellations. “There is a dire need to recruit engineers with rail expertise. Crucially, we are still waiting for a commuter-centred safety plan.”

“#UniteBehind repeats the call for a national disaster to be declared. This would unlock government funds to be able to sustain Prasa and commuter rail. We further call on the minister to fulfil his commitment that he made in June to meet commuters in Cape Town to come up with practical solutions to #FixOurTrains.”

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During the war room launch Mbalula said it would focus on three areas. “The first being service recovery, paying particular attention on rolling stock availability and reliability, infrastructure availability and reliability and train performance.”

He said the second focus area would be safety management, “paying particular attention to implementing effective measures to protect rolling stock, staging yards, perway, electrical and signal infrastructure, depots, stations and, most importantly, passengers on board our trains”.

The third area, Mbalula said, would be an accelerated implementation of the modernisation programme.

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“This entails urgently creating capacity for Prasa to manage capital projects and spend its capital budget to achieve effective sequencing of critical infrastructure that will enable the deployment of the new trains in targeted corridors,” he said.

He said the war room would guide and monitor interventions on a weekly basis and would continue to exist until the end of the financial year. “(It) must be realised by December 31 and sustained beyond this date,” Mbalula said.

The launch was preceded by a visit to a train control cabin in Germiston and a visit to the Gauteng nerve centre in Kaalfontein, outside Tembisa.

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@SISONKE_MD

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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Public Transport

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