Train troubles

June Cox, Plumstead

On Friday August 11, after waiting for nearly an hour at Plumstead station, I eventually boarded a train only to be on the train for nearly two hours to get to Cape Town.

The train stood between stations and some passengers eventually started to jump from the trains and started to walk along the train lines.

After the weekend, whatever the problem was on Friday, one would have thought that the problem would have been solved, but on Monday August 14, the trains were again delayed and again stood between stations.

People are so desperate to get to work, they put their lives in danger hanging out of trains, standing in the front and the back of the trains. People complain about the money lost getting to work late.

This problem started from the beginning of this year, and instead of some improvement, the situation is getting worse.

I took some pictures just to prove to my boss what happens and why I arrive late for work. Thank goodness I work for a wonderful and understanding company, and I hope bosses will understand the problem is not with their workers but with Metrorail.

Riana Scott, Metrorail spokesperson, responds:

The Western Cape is operating at 60% capacity having lost 101 carriages to arson and vandalism since October 2015. As a result, punctuality and reliability have declined significantly. The infrastructure is old and obsolete, prone to frequent breakdowns. Components are difficult to procure and repairs are time-consuming.

However, we are committed to do all within our ability to stabilise the service sufficiently prior to modernisation; our focus over the next 24 months will be the return of carriages out of service, restoring key infrastructure and improving operational safety.

This accelerated turnaround plan will run with the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (PRASA) modernisation programme to replace obsolete trains and related infrastructure.

The region has only 60 train sets to service a timetable designed for 84 train sets, hence the many cancellations.

Commuters are understandably anxious if trains do not appear as scheduled in the timetable and board trains at any cost.

We are revising the timetable to match the reduced fleet and hope to release details of the revised train schedule later this year. The redesign is still a manual process with timetabling software forming part of future modernisation.

The same holds for efficient passenger information systems – as part of modernisation, electronic messaging boards are being rolled out to all stations in phases. This will assist greatly in informing passengers where they need it most – on platforms. I have alerted our customer-facing managers to your concerns to ensure that their staff communicate with customers during delays.

The first phase has been completed, with 18 stations being fitted with boards; phase 2 will add another 32 stations. Until then, we have only our public-address announcements and social-media channels to rely on. We encourage customers to consult these for service updates.