More than 80% of Gauteng train stations left in ruins
Pretoria - More than 80% of train stations in Gauteng have been left in ruins after they were stripped of anything of value, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.
The infrastructure was ravaged after President Cyril Ramaphosa placed the country under lockdown last year following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This left train stations unguarded, paving the way for thieves to plunder anything from cables, handrails and windows to doors and bricks.
After trains were grounded, commuters lost their jobs because thy could not afford to pay for taxi fares, which are much more expensive.
Thabang Sekwela, 41, a security officer from Tlamatlama in Tembisa, said he used to walk about 20km to catch a train at Oakmoor Station to get to work in Pretoria and back every day.
Sekwela, who used to work shifts at a retail shop in the capital, had to quit his job after the grounding of the trains, due to the theft, more than a year ago. “When we went into lockdown, we were stopped from going to work. But in July we were called to resume our duties because the lockdown laws were relaxed and more and more people were able to go to the shops to buy food.
“However, I had to pay R40 a day just to get to work and back every day. I used to get paid R3 100 per month as my salary, and had to save R1 200 for transport to work. I gave my unemployed wife R1 500 for food and I would end up with nothing,” Sekwela said. He said he would rather stay at home and open up a local market so he did not have to pay so much for transport.
Investigations by the Pretoria News revealed that from Oakmoor to Joburg, commuters fork out just under R400 per month using the train, and R1 320 to travel by taxi.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the government was coming up with interventions to remedy the situation at train stations. “Its precisely due to our determination to turn the tide on this lawlessness that we have conceptualised this,” he said at the launch of the People’s Responsibility to Protect campaign, aimed at addressing the challenges facing the rail sector. in the Eastern Cape last month.
Responding to questions by the Pretoria News this week, Passenger Rail Agency of SA spokesperson Bane Ndlovu said they were attending to the matter with urgency. “The technical team has evaluated the extent of the infrastructure damage and has assessed the scope of work required to restore the corridors for train services. To this end a procurement process is being embarked upon to source service providers who will come and repair the lines, including the power supply system,” he said.
“We would also like to urge communities to report criminal elements within our society who are vandalising the much-needed infrastructure.
“We are operating limited services under diesel traction and, yes, we have been serving the Tembisa community with the Leralla to Elandsfontein trains since August 2020. We are (aiming) to introduce the second train to serve from Oakmoor and extend services to Joburg towards the end of May.”
Meanwhile, community leaders in Tembisa, who did not want to be named, blamed the taxi industry for the vandalism, accusing taxi operators of deliberately vandalising the stations to stop trains from operating to make more money.
However, the SA National Taxi Council has denied the claims. Its chief strategic manager, Banana Magagula, said: “People who have vandalised the property of the state should be arrested. We condemn the vandalism in the strongest possible way, and deny allegations that it’s the taxi industry that would do that.”