‘Metrorail service is a mess’

Alison Massey, Kenilworth

There have been many reports in the news recently about Metrorail and their “no service” to commuters, including:

The constant delays.

The constant breakdowns.

No announcements.

No feedback.

Late trains.

Trains stopping between stations for long periods.

Signal problems.

Unfriendly and unhelpful staff.

Filth and poor maintenance at stations.

No security on any of the trains.

Slashed and torn seats in the Metro Plus carriages.

Graffiti, broken windows or no windows.

Recently, I arrived at Cape Town Station just after 4.30pm. The board showed a train at Platform 5 leaving at 4.56pm, but there was no train. The only train (0207) was on Platform 2. It left at about 5.02pm.

The train was literally driving at about 5km an hour with constant stop/starts all the way to Woodstock station, where we sat for a couple of minutes before pulling out.

But the train went 10 metres and stopped. We sat for at least 20 minutes. Then people started jumping out to walk back to Woodstock station.

After a while, the train moved, again at about 5km an hour to Salt River station, which was packed with people..

A minute later, people were saying we had to get off as the train was going to the stockyard. Some did get off, but then suddenly everyone was told to get back on and the train started moving, again at 5km an hour. But we were completely off our line and going straight to the stockyard.

The driver didn’t even get out to come down and tell the passengers to get off.

No, he just closed the doors (while people were trying to get either off or on – as they were not sure what was going on) and continued travelling to the stockyard.

At the stockyard there was no security and no Metrorail staff to help us in any way or tell us where to go.

I phoned the Metrorail number (0800 65 64 63) to ask how we were supposed to get out of the stockyard.

The woman I spoke to said the train would be returning to Cape Town in a few minutes, but I asked how that was possible when that big train engine that pushes broken down trains around was in front of our train and had obviously pushed us into the stockyard in the first place.

This is disgraceful, unacceptable. What is going on with Metrorail?

I have to pay a monthly ticket every month for this. I am refusing to buy another ticket until Metrorail decides what they want to do.

If I get stopped or arrested because I don’t have a ticket I will go to my lawyers and I will sue Metrorail for every cent they do have.

Someone please sort this mess out.

I hope someone will be listening and take action.

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott responds: The reasons and contributing factors to the current poor levels of service are widely publicised.

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.

As we close the net on vandals in one area, crime surfaces elsewhere – vandals now target the internal wiring of carriages.

They strip cable in transit, we repair 60 to 70 carriages a month and have just ordered 30km of cabling to keep up with the rate of vandalism.

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 will recover the service in phases during the next 24 months, focusing on the return of train-sets, adding carriages to lengthen trains to their original capacity, restoring key infrastructure and improving operational safety.

This accelerated turnaround plan will run concomitantly to PRASA’s modernisation programme.

In the Western Cape, visible progress includes the migration of copper-based technology to fibre, station upgrades (ie Philippi), the building of a new nerve centre to deal with modern signalling .

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.

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 as well as our other passenger information channels.