Rail on track

New Rail Enforcement Unit officers have been officially deployed to protect rail commuters and infrastructure. Picture: City of Cape Town
Thieves preying on commuters at the busy Bellville station have more reason to fear an imminent trip to jail given the arrest record of a new unit policing Cape Town’s rail network.

Little more than two months after it was launched, the Rail Enforcement Unit has arrested 36 people for various crimes, including assault, possession of drugs and stolen property.
It has recovered 379.380m of stolen cables and 800kg of railway signal cables have also been recovered from thieves hundreds of metres of stolen cables.

While the city and Metrorail were unable to give specific statistics for certain areas the police force in Bellville police say the unit has improved safety at the station.
“The police appreciates any sort of support that we can get and especially over the festive period we were pleased to see an extra presence of security at the station,” said  Bellville police spokeswoman Lieutenant Fienie Nimb.

“Of course, Bellville still remains one of the busiest stations in the city with literally thousands and thousands of commuters daily so, unfortunately, there will always be an element of crime. 

“We appeal to all residents to please keep their belongings, such as cellphones, safe while travelling, especially cellphones, and to please be vigilant when making use of the trains and other forms of public transport.”  

The REU is funded jointly by the City of Cape Town, provincial government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

Since its deployment in October, an extra 100 security officers have been seen at various Metrorail terminals such as Bellville. 

The duties of the extra 100 officers include more passenger searches. 

These have led to the seizure of weapons, contraband and even fraudulent train tickets. 

Western Cape minister andPublic Works MEC Donald Grant said: “When we launched this initiative, our intention was to increase security on our rail network as the situation had reached dire straits with arson, vandalism, cable theft, and violent crime becoming commonplace. 

“An intervention was urgently required, and through effective intergovernmental cooperation, we were able to get the REU off the ground. 

“The initial results and arrests are testament to the initiative’s effectiveness and our officers’ commitment on the ground. 

“Our rail management task team (RMTT)  is continuing to explore ways in which to dramatically improve rail for the thousands of commuters who rely on this mode of transport.”

With the city contributing a more physical presence towards safety on train stations there has also been the outcry to mThe public are being urged  embers of the public to help report any rail-related crime to Metrorail and there is a reward of up to R25 000 for information that leads to a successful conviction. 

The City’s executive Mayor Dan Plato said: “The people of Cape Town deserve a safe and reliable public transport system. Rail should be commuters’ mode of choice because commuting by rail is more affordable, and it’s the most efficient mode of transport when operating optimally. 

“The REU’s successes to date give me good reason to believe that this unit will assist us in stabilising the urban rail service over the next few months. 
“With less crime and vandalism, we can expect a decrease in delays and cancellations, and with that we can expect more commuters opting for trains as opposed to road-based transport.”

Crime and suspicious activity can be reported to the Metrorail Protection Services hotline at 021 449 4336/5056. SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111
Crime line: SMS 32211