Prasa was responding to the Democratic Alliance’s shadow transport minister Manny de Freitas, the party’s Gauteng leader John Moodey and MP Phumzile van Damme, who took part in a picket outside the agency’s Pretoria head office.
Demanding safer and reliable train services for commuters, the DA members said inspections done on the rail systems found that commuters faced safety and economic risks each day due to the conditions of trains and unpredictable timetables.
Van Damme said: “Metrorail passengers are invariably subjected to unsafe, perpetually delayed and overcrowded trains. In a period of only four months, four people have died and 1,000 commuters injured in train crashes in Gauteng alone.”
Yesterday, a young boy in Cape Town was killed when he tragically fell from a moving train.
“We cannot allow more lives to be lost. We cannot ignore the plight of railway commuters any longer,” Van Damme added.
The issues raised by the DA yesterday were of great concern, but also a worry to the agency and South Africans at large, Prasa Group chief strategy officer Sipho Sithole said.
Receiving the memorandum of demands from the DA, Sithole said the agency was challenged by criminal activities of vandalism of train coaches, resulting in an unreliable and unpredictable transport service.
Last year, of the 900 repaired trains that were placed back in service, 700 were in no time vandalised again, he explained.
While a train would normally have 12 coaches, vandalism would reduce that figure to six or eight coaches, resulting in overcrowding, he said.
“We keep on doing the same thing and end up spending more money fixing coaches than running a service.
“Our other challenge is people encroaching on the railway system by building shacks right on the rail lines. Prasa, unfortunately, is not equipped to move people.”
Government has allocated Prasa R173 billion for infrastructure upgrades, which should see the manufacturing of 600 new trains.
“Rail service is under siege every day because of thuggery, which affects our ability to offer an uninterrupted train service,” Sithole added.
“We end up cancelling and delaying trains, affecting both workers and students. It is not because of our incompetence or inefficiencies …
“The memorandum given to us by the DA is justified, but this is also a concern to everyone.”