Parliament’s Portfolio Committee of Transport has made an urgent call on Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to reopen the Khayelitsha railway lines as soon as possible.
The railway lines have been closed for five weeks due to vandalism and security threats to passengers and staff. The decision to close the central was made after a security guard was murdered in Khayelitsha on 9 January and it remained closed due to damage to infrastructure.
A meeting between the portfolio committee, Prasa and Rail Safety Regulator was called after civil society organisations representing train commuters submitted written complaints to the committee pleading for the railway lines to be opened.
Prasa was asked to answer questions surrounding train commuter safety and unreliable train services.
In the meeting, acting chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane said it was unfortunate that the railways have had to be closed for such a long time and that they were simply failing the people of Cape Town who rely on the services to get to work.
“For five weeks people haven’t been able to get to their places of work […] People are struggling to go and make a living. They are being dismissed when they don’t make it to work,” said Ramatlakane.
Prasa’s Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Comet Molepo said the central line between Khayelitsha and Cape Town would be opened next week Wednesday, however, the portfolio committee expressed their unhappiness about the set the date and said the issue was a matter of urgency.
“We don’t buy the story of next week. Prasa must find additional resources to make sure that the central line is reopened,” the committee said. “The situation is a crisis and necessitates a holding arrangement while a permanent solution is being sorted out,” the committee added.
The portfolio committed advised Prasa to make use of Autopax (a subsidiary of Prasa) to dispatch buses for stranded commuters in the meantime.
Prasa was also advised to consider a “multi-disciplinary approach” that would make use of the South African Police Service, the Intelligence Service and the metro police in order to develop safety plans to prevent cable theft and protect passengers.