News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday March 26th 2019

Train service faces ‘unprecedented attack’

An illegal strike by security guards working for companies contracted by Metrorail led to an “unprecedented” attack on Metrorail assets, costing the beleaguered rail carrier over R23 million so far, said Regional Manager Lindelo Matya yesterday.

Since the strike started on November 18 last year, over 120 incidents of vandalism have been reported, said Matya, who claims the vandalism is caused by guards who demanded to be directly employed by Metrorail sabotaging the train service.

“There’s a group of people hell-bent on getting their way,” he said.

Incidents include setting carriages alight, damaging signalling equipment and stealing cabling.

The attacks occur daily. Track circuits were set alight in Philippi yesterday Metrorail stated on their Facebook page.

“Signalling infrastructure is so damaged that trains are operating under perpetual contingency measures,” said Matya. This resulted in major train delays and cancellations in these areas. The system had been so compromised “by ongoing asset destruction” that automated train control and traffic operations in the central service area were no longer possible.

He said vandals have been responsible for the destruction of five train carriages, more than 110 signals, 17 points machines, 21 track boxes and assorted cables. Twenty nine tracks are down, points are clamped in 42 areas and train drivers are receiving up to 38 manual authorisations per trip.

Since November 173 trains have been cancelled and 2 503 trains delayed due to vandalism.

Delays, sometimes up to three hours in duration, have become part of the daily commute for those who rely on the train service.

Matya said the security guard strike started after the guards’ union, Satawu, raised the issue of the guards being directly employed by Metrorail rather than by contracted companies.

“We said no, we can’t do it that way.”

With security company contracts ending on December 31, the rumour that the contracts would not be renewed spread, sparking the strike, from which Satawu soon distanced itself.

As a result of attacks on Metrorail property the company received a temporary interdict from the Cape High Court in December against 367 strikers, barring them from being on Metrorail property or using the trains.

Metrorail will hear today whether the High Court will grant a permanent interdict against the strikers.

Matya said the seven companies contracted by Metrorail had co-operated with Metrorail and striking guards had been fired. Their contracts had been renewed and a new contract had been signed with another security provider, brining the total number of contracted companies to eight.

As a result of the continual delays to their train service, Metrorail has re-introduced a special express bus services in affected areas until the network is restored.

These special supplementary services alleviate congestion on busy routes between Chris Hani – Cape Town, Kuyasa – Cape Town, Nonkqubela – Cape Town, Nolungile – Cape Town, Stock Road – Cape Town and Khayelitsha – Cape Town.

The buses express between six stations and Cape Town Station during peak hours and do not stop. “The Khayelitsha Express has also been replaced by a bus service for the next few days” said Matya. – Nombulelo Damba

Tags: Khayelitsha Express, Lindelo Matya, metrorail, Satawu

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One Response to “Train service faces ‘unprecedented attack’”

  1. […] At a meeting requested by MEC Robin Carlisle, Provincial MEC for Transport, on Friday, 27 January public transport roleplayers agreed to put in place mechanisms to try and ensure that travel on public transport is improved (see report). […]

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