Ticket, but no place to ride

SOYISO MALITI

Normal rail services in the northern suburbs were disrupted after two serious acts of vandalism on the Kraaifontein and Kuils River lines in the last two weeks.

Last week, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) spokeswoman Riana Scott said circuits on the line between Kraaifontein and Bellville were vandalised on Friday February 19. A week earlier, circuits had been vandalised on the Kuils River line on Thursday February 11.

On Tuesday February 16, Richard Walker, Prasa’s rail services’ regional manager, told the provincial legislature’s standing committee on transport that the rail service had seen a spike in vandalism.

Ms Scott said that from April 1 last year to date, there had been 72 incidents of vandalism on the northern suburbs lines, averaging seven to eight incidents a month.

These acts of vandalism, she said, “were committed on a Prasa-owned network only”, and excluded Transnet’s vandalism cases in the northern suburbs, which also has an impact on Metrorail trains utilising that network “notably north of Kraaifontein to Worcester and Malmesbury”.

Ms Scott said vandalism in the Western Cape was costing Prasa R6 million to R10 million a year, excluding the cost of lost productivity to employers.

Depending on the extent of the damage, it could take anything from a few minutes to several months to repair vandalised circuits.

“This also depends on the availability of material or specialised equipment and the procurement process associated with the acquisition of stock and conducive weather conditions,” she said.

Earl September, a service quality monitor for Metrorail and a journalist, conceded that while Metrorail’s service was not up to scratch because of vandalism it was better now then it had been a year ago.

“Service, however, does not only mean trains operating, but also includes protection services, customer service and the technicians fixing problems – who all have their challenges as well,” he said.

Mr September said he didn’t think Mr Walker’s parliamentary briefing would have any bearing on the status quo.

“Something good will come (if) the portfolio committee on transport took a train for a month or two, and experienced the service the ordinary citizen (does),” he said.