Pretoria - Commuters in Mabopane north of Pretoria were in distress, struggling with transport after train services were suspended, a commuter representative said on Tuesday.
Chairman of the United Commuters Voice, Thabo Morukhuladi, said he almost cried when he went to assess the anguish caused by the withdrawal of trains by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).
“I was with the community and saw how they are now struggling. I almost cried in front of the people. They have a very serious problem of transport now,” he said.
“The situation is devastating for most of the community members. They need transport to come to town to work but most cannot afford the alternative transport,” said Morukhuladi.
He did not condone the actions of the commuters who torched trains on Thursday.
“Our commuters must learn and understand. We have had a standing agreement with Metrorail that once a train is vandalised, service will be suspended to that corridor.
“These trains are assets of the commuters so they cannot look on whilst someone is destroying the trains. Those criminals should be apprehended,” said Morukhuladi.
He urged Metrorail to improve on its services.
Two Metrorail trains were set alight by irate commuters on Thursday after train services were delayed in bad weather.
On Friday, Prasa rail CEO Mosenngwa Mofi announced that train services to that corridor had been suspended indefinitely.
“It's about time our people learn that these are public assets and you cannot resort to damage, arson, and theft when there is a problem,” he said.
Mofi said eight coaches were torched at Kopanong station and one at Akasia. Both trains were en route to Mabopane from Koedoespoort station, east of Pretoria.
Repairing the damage caused by the torching of the two trains would cost about R70 million, said Mofi at the time.
He said the trains were running “extremely late” on the day of the incidents because of rainy weather. The situation was exacerbated by ageing infrastructure.
“A lightning strike had resulted in a power failure, affecting control panels and overhead power,” he said.
“It must be appreciated that we run our rail operations with old infrastructure, which is prone to constant failure.”
The withdrawal of the train service would affect more than 60,000 daily commuters in the area.
Mofi announced that Prasa was offering a R50,000 reward to members of the public who volunteered information leading to the successful conviction of those responsible for the arson.
“We will also be conducting a board of inquiry into the matter. It will not only look at the incident itself, but the circumstances around the incidents,” he said.
Problems had hounded Metrorail operations in the Mabopane area, said Mofi.
“A few weeks ago there were service delivery protests that had nothing to do with trains, but we were victims there. Our tracks and overheads 1/8cables 3/8 were burnt,” he said. - Sapa