Get the trains running immediately, say protesters

Cape Town commuters march from Heideveld train station to the station in Nyanga

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Members of #UniteBehind and advocacy groups marched from the Heideveld train station, through Gugulethu, to the train station in Nyanga to demand that the Central Line be fully restored. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

About 100 people marched through Gugulethu on Wednesday, demanding that PRASA fully restore Metrorail’s Central Line in Cape Town.

The Central Line has not been fully functional for years due to vandalism, theft of infrastructure, and the occupation of the tracks and rail reserve owned by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

While part of the Central Line has since been restored, several train stations and part of the route along the Cape Flats are yet to be recovered.

Currently, the Central Line only runs from Cape Town to Nyanga. This means that many commuters who previously used trains have had to find alternative and more costly public transport.

GroundUp reported that services between Cape Town station and the working class areas of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain were suspended in December 2017 following months of sustained vandalism, cable theft, and destruction of infrastructure. This was the result of continued irregular and possibly corrupt security contracts. Then in 2019, PRASA terminated security services without new contracts in place to secure its infrastructure.

The march on Wednesday was organised by #UniteBehind, started at the Heideveld train station and ended in Nyanga. Marchers, some in wheelchairs, came from different areas like Gugulethu, Nyanga and Crossroads.

Lindiwe Mvandaba, a Crossroads resident and member of the Movement for Change and Social Justice, said people have been spending more money on transport since the trains stopped operating.

“Taxis are expensive and they raise their fares continuously. We are poor. One thing we appreciated about trains is that they were affordable. Not having trains operating is a big inconvenience,” said Mvandaba.

Wheelchair user, Ntombozuko Ngxambuza from Gugulethu represented the Vukuhambe Disabled Centre at the march. She said: “We do a lot of skills training … Some of these skills require having people physically come to the centre. If we had a reliable train service, it would make it easy.”

Ngxambuza noted that most public transport options like taxis and Golden Arrow buses do not cater to wheelchair users and others with physical disabilities.

The protesters brought a memorandum of demands addresses to PRASA. Their demands included that PRASA publicise a detailed plan to fully restore the Central Line immediately, have transparent tenders, and that PRASA signs a service-level agreement with the City of Cape Town outlines the responsibilities of each party in the restoration and future maintenance of the Central Line.

TOPICS:  Prasa / Metrorail Transport

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