With the Mabopane train station in Tshwane scheduled to reopen by the end of November following multi-million rand worth of refurbishments, commuters may need to wait a bit longer for full services.
This is according to one of the top transport experts in the country, who warned that not all services will be back online because of the massive damage to the railway infrastructure in and around the capital city.
Professor Jackie Walters, the director of the Institute for Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) (Africa) at the University of Johannesburg, said: “They may open for limited operations and continue to fix other issues. “It is a complex project. “A lot of damage was done to the system and the infrastructure and it will take time to get it back to where it used to be.”
This comes after massive looting of facilities and vandalising of the infrastructure. This left commuters struggling with transport as trains were grounded, leaving only a few to take people along the route.
The absence of security to patrol the rail line and others across the country was said to be among one of the causes of the vandalism.
During Parliamentary questions and answers, Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will be deploying 5 000 guards sourced through private security providers during the month of November to safeguard railway infrastructure.
The Mabopane Corridor and Central line in Cape Town are of high priority for the Presidential Projects, he said.
“The work on Mabopane corridor is nearing completion and is on target to resume some of its services at the end of November.
“Prasa has put in place a detailed recovery plan aimed at rehabilitating and replacing stolen and vandalised infrastructure, including replacement of stolen Overhead Traction Equipment, signalling, substations, Perway, and stations,” said Mbalula.
Another additional measure to improve security at the stations was the construction of concrete walls along the identified corridors. “The wall will be impenetrable. “The material to be used will provide extra strength with a height of four metres, reinforced with an electric fence,” added Mbalula.
The Mabopane train station not being operational did not only affect commuters; vendors and those conducting businesses there were also hard hit, as no commuters means no business.
Portia Wambe, a vendor who sold vegetables at the train station for years, said if the train resumed its services her business would pick up again.
“The train station not working has impacted our businesses badly because those who were using the train now use taxis and buses.”
Those were expensive, so people could not afford to buy vegetables with the R5 change they used to have when they were using the train, she said.
“Another issue is that where we are selling now it is not safe and we are not allowed by the law to conduct business here.
“I would be happy if the train station opens so that we can make money and conduct business on the other side of the station where we used to sell,” said Wambe.