By Suné Payne and Tariro Washinyira
Long-suffering Metrorail commuters were stranded again on Thursday at Parow station as trains in both directions were delayed.
Metrorail’s own statistics show that very few Cape Town trains actually run on time, and at least 40% of scheduled trains don’t run at all.
In its MyLine newspaper distributed on stations, Metrorail reported that in the week from 30 November to 6 December only 14% of trains on the central line were on time in the mornings and only one train in three in the evenings. The central line runs from Cape Town to Kapteinsklip, Khayelitsha, Chris Hani and Sarepta.
It was during this week that councillor Brett Herron wrote in GroundUp about his experience taking a train from Khayelitsha. He wrote: “For the early morning peak, trains are scheduled to depart from the Nolungile station at 5:19am, 5:34am, 5:41am, 5:49am, 5:56am and 6:04am. They are scheduled to arrive at the Cape Town station 50 to 60 minutes later. Not a single train, however, arrived before 6am.”
In that week, 57% of trains were cancelled, both in the mornings and evening.
On the South Line, that runs from Cape Town to Simonstown, only 40% of trains were on time in the mornings and 54% in the evenings. About 40% of trains were cancelled.
Metrorail commuters on the North line fared little better: “only” 18% of trains were cancelled. Less than half of the trains were on time in the mornings or in the evenings. The North line runs from Cape Town to Monte Vista, Bellville, Wellington, Stellenbosch and Strand.
On the North line on Thursday at about 7:50am, two trains heading for Cape Town stopped, one behind the other, between Parow and Tygerberg stations. A train heading in the opposite direction also stopped when it reached the same spot.
Commuters walked along the railway line all the way to Parow taxi rank. When a Cape Town train did come, it was full and some people could not board.
One commuter who works in Somerset West said he was worried that “Metrorail incompetence” might cost him his job.
He said when his usual train had not come to Parow station he had taken a taxi to Bellville and a train – which had been delayed for 45 minutes – from Bellville station to Somerset West. He said the train had stopped again for about 20 minutes close to Sarepta station.
A domestic worker who works in Camps Bay said she had been forced to take a taxi. In the past two years her relationship with her employer had soured because she was always late for work because of train problems, she said.
List of problems
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott explained Thursday’s delays:
- Northern line: low overhead power between Huguenot and Soetendal, defective trains, speed restrictions and signal equipment failure at Firgrove and between Kuils River – Elsies River required that some trains had to be re-routed via Monte Vista while others could only proceed with manual authorisation resulting in 60+minutes longer travelling time.
- Cape Flats line- defective track circuits at Southfield, defective signals/cable theft between Hazendal and Pinelands resulted in additional travel time of 40-50 minutes.
- South line – manual authorisation between Retreat and Fish Hoek, speed restrictions and defective signals at Observatory resulted in additional travel time of 30-40 minutes.
- Central line – manual authorisation due to vandalism, cable theft between Nyanga, Mitchells Plain and Kapteinsklip and signal equipment failure at Bellville resulted in 60+minutes longer travel times.
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