Parliament, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 – Unreliable train operations in the Cape Town metro, which have resulted in the suspension of operations between the city and Khayelitsha for five weeks, as well as passenger safety on trains came up for discussion in a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Transport in Parliament today.
Following written complaints from civil society organisations representing train commuters in the Cape Town area, the Portfolio Committee on Transport today invited the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) as well as the Rail Safety Regulator, to answer questions on unreliable train operations and safety of train commuters.
Unite Behind, an umbrella organisation representing several non-governmental organisations, and United Commuters Voice, appealed to the Portfolio Committee to intervene to get Prasa to urgently reopen the central line (Khayelitsha and surrounding areas), which has been shut down for five weeks now following incidents of vandalism.
Acting Committee Chairperson, Mr Leonard Ramatlakane, said it was unfortunate that train services on the Cape Town central line had to be shut down for such a long time.
“For five weeks people haven’t been able to get to their places of work, we are simply failing the people of Cape Town, people struggling to go and make a living, they are being dismissed when they don’t make it to work. We are frustrated, we are getting hundreds of emails from people asking about these trains, we don’t have six months to sort out this thing and the state does have resources – why not dispatch engineers from other regions – why do you want to continue sustaining the pain?”
The Committee heard from Prasa’s Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Comet Molepo, that the central line between Cape Town and Khayelitsha will be reopened on Wednesday next week. However, the Committee expressed unhappiness with the next set dates saying the matter was an emergency.
This situation is a crisis and necessitates a holding arrangement while a permanent solution is being sorted out, Autopax (a subsidiary of Prasa) can dispatch buses to be used by the stranded commuters. We don’t buy the story of next week, Prasa must find additional resources to make sure that the central line is reopened.
The Portfolio Committee also resolved to withdraw its planned subpoena to the board of Prasa, following the board’s failure to appear before the Committee last week. We decided that there won’t be any need to continue with the subpoena now that they have availed themselves. They have also recommitted to account fully to the Committee as a board.
Prasa was also advised to consider a multi-disciplinary approach that will involve the metro police, the South African Police Service and the Intelligence Service to develop safety plans to protect both passengers and prevent cable theft.
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