The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in the Western Cape says it is working around the clock to restore its commuter services despite extensive damage caused by vandalism and rolling blackouts. Train services on major routes have been brought to a halt since the Covid-19 pandemic started, following massive destruction of the rail system network.
On Monday Metrorail reintroduced its service between Eerste River and Bellville, with a limited service on weekdays.
According to Prasa, at some point before Covid-19, the Bellville station operated more than 70 trains a day. But, the large scale destruction of the rail network system including theft of overhead cables, rail tracks and vandalism of infrastructure has affected the services.
Authorities say plans are afoot to reintroduce this cost-effective mode of transport despite the ongoing challenges.
“If you look at the way we are operating the service under abnormal conditions which makes it slow and small service, but still a safe service. Now with load shedding specifically with the escalating stages, it became a big killer of this service in terms of your systems that you need as back up just can’t keep up with it. You have dark stations and you don’t have electricity there. It’s a lot of things that are absolutely influencing everything that we are doing,” says Johan Kriel, Acting Regional Manager of Prasa in the Western Cape.
Restore limited services
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has welcomed the resumption of the service. The provincial government is advocating for the devolution of the train service to the province in order to incorporate it in its integrated transport network. Commuters relish the opportunity to use trains once again.
“I’m actually quite happy but it’s quite sad to see platforms demolished by the people. But other than that I’m actually quite happy that the trains are back so you giving up more money. And the train is more convenient for me,” says a commuter Chanell Cupido.
“I heard from my colleague that trains are operational but I wasn’t sure but I’m glad Prasa is opening lines. I can’t explain but I can feel the money in my pocket now,” another commuter says.
“I’m happy this train is really saving us a lot of money. It is also efficient and safe to be here and I’m happy,” another commuter explains.
Prasa says it is looking to restore limited services on the troubled central line corridor.
The agency has appealed to commuters to refrain from eating, smoking and drinking on the train to keep the carriages clean.