The Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) will begin resuming train services from Wednesday at 15% capacity. The gradual return to service of trains will see four lines, one in Gauteng, two in the Eastern Cape and one in the Western Cape, start operating.

Prasa halted services at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in late March.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula visited Wolmerton station in Pretoria, where he was shown arrangements to ensure social distancing for train passengers.

He also went to the Pienaarspoort train station, where he was shown how commuters will be screened and sanitised before boarding the train. Prasa administrator, Bongisizwe Mpondo, says it is all systems go for tomorrow.

“We are planning to resume services from tomorrow, Wednesday the 1st of July. We plan to do so on four lines, in Gauteng, the line that we just travelled on, being from Pienaarspoort down here to the Pretoria station. We’re looking at the Western Cape, the southern line from Cape Town to Retreat. Two lines in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage as well as East London to Berlin.”

Precautions

Prasa’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Nosipho Damasane, says necessary precautions will be followed at stations to ensure people suspected of having the coronavirus do not board trains.

“What we will do is we will check the temperature again and then we will then actually call for the health officials to come and assist or we will ask somebody to go back home or go for testing themselves if we feel that they show symptoms but we won’t allow those people to get into the train.”

No mask, no ride

Mbalula says he is impressed.

“What I have seen is quite impressive. The bigger challenge for the administrator and your team is going to be on monitoring. The devil is going to be in implementation when thousands of people arrive here in the morning. Will we do what we are expected to do, to observe the rules of social distance, to observe the rules that everyone has got a mask. No mask,  no ride.”

Metrorail transports about two million passengers daily. This makes up about 15% of people who use public transport in South Africa.