Commuters using Kenilworth railway station are “disgusted” with the state of the station and said there seems to be very little concern from the authorities about the appearance of the station.
Illegal graffiti art, obscene messages written on the subway walls leading to the platform, homeless people sleeping in and around the station or railway lines and also the amount of litter scattered across the station were some of the key concerns raised by commuters.
Aslam Jacobs from Mowbray travels through the station daily and has been doing so for years, but said he felt the station was becoming worse and that “very little” was being done to address the problems.
Mr Jacobs was most disturbed by a message left on one of the walls, which has Arabic writing, with an English message below, which states: “Allah who?”.
“It is clear that a certain group of people have targeted this space, showing no respect as metres away from where our creator’s name is written out so beautifully with a not so beautiful post below are swear words and very ugly gangster signs,” he said.
Mr Jacobs said what surprised him is to see the message on the wall being there for so long, questioning who was supposed to maintain the area leading to the platform and why the obscene posts were not removed.
“There are many kinds of people passing through here every day, including youngsters and these posts clearly offend people.
“So why are they not being removed? Does Metrorail feel that this is the kind of messages we should be teaching our children?” Mr Jacobs asked.
Esther Williams agrees, calling the illegal graffiti art and posts “vulgar” and “distasteful” and said she was “disgusted” that Metrorail had not removed any of the illegal drawings.
Ms Williams said Kenilworth station was always in a dirty state and even though she is aware of people cleaning the station, she believes it’s not done on a regular basis.
“In the morning, when I’m on my way to work, the station will be cleaned but when I return, it’s a mess. On my way the next day, that same mess would be blowing around and it will be there for a few days,” she said.
Ms Williams said it was also disheartening to witness the number of homeless people using the railway lines or the subways of the station as shelter.
She said while commuters were also responsible for the rubbish found at the station, the homeless also contributed to the litter problem and the station’s overall grimy state, with the boxes they sleep on, old blankets and clothing, and rubbish that was removed from the dirt bins.
Ward councillor Ian Iversen, who is aware of the illegal graffiti, said: “The management of the railway area is certainly not easy to understand from a resident’s point of view. I think that I am correct in stating that Metrorail is responsible for 100 metres either side of Kenilworth station in both directions. Then the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) takes over responsibility for the track along side the railway line. And no, the public stand little chance of knowing that and who should be contacted.”
He added that Kenilworth station had a station master, cleansing crew and security in place, but he felt that the problem was that none of them was proactive.
“If a squatter moves on to their property they, in the past, have done nothing. No call to me or the local civic association. People defecate in the grounds just off the pathway, but no effort is made to clean up the mess.”
He said he was even promised by a Metrorail employee that they would get a professional graffiti artist to paint an educational message about water saving over the illegal artwork, but confirmed that “nothing happened”.
“The current graffiti and obscene messages must have been on the subway for ages and surely they must have been aware of the situation, but did nothing at all.
“By doing nothing, the railways send out a message that it is okay to deface the subway,” Mr Iversen said.
“Management really needs to take control of the situation and put the station master to terms as the station should serve the public and be presentable. The resources are available and just need to be used.”
However, provincial spokesperson for Metrorail, Riana Scott, said Metrorail had not received any complaints about the state of Kenilworth station.
She added that the removal of graffiti from trains and working stations was “an acknowledged problem”, especially in the southern area. “Every effort is made to remove offensive graffiti reported within 48 hours, especially if the train, and/or coach number and/or station is supplied.
“Cleaners inspect trains daily.
“We have explored several options to discourage graffiti. At the moment a chemical engineering company is trying to perfect a chemical to remove graffiti effectively from the trains and stations,” Ms Scott explained.
She added that graffiti on trains was removed during deep cleaning or general maintenance overhauls and with limited funding, the needs are many and priorities vie for the most urgent attention.
“It must be seen within the context of Prasa being partially state-subsidised and as a fully state-owned entity, we do not have discretionary powers to spend funds at will. We are obliged to comply with Treasury regulations and follow due supply chain processes.
“We continue to raise awareness to assist police in catching the culprits,” Ms Scott said.