Brett Herron, MMC for Transport and Urban Development in the City of Cape Town, says the City’s public transport system is buckling under the pressure of increasing attacks on critical infrastructure and assets needed to run its bus and urban rail services.

According to Herron the latest statistics from the City’s MyCiTi bus service, the Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS), and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) confirm that the public transport system is facing an onslaught, and that very few, if any, arrests are made.

“It is not an exaggeration to warn that our public transport system could collapse if criminals are allowed to keep on sabotaging and undermining our services as is currently the case,” he notes.

Bus stats

Herron says the cost of damage to MyCiTi stations alone due to vandalism and protest action from July 2014 to September 2017 amounted to nearly R4 million, which does not include the recent damage to the MyCiTi stations at Dunoon and Usasaza.

In addition two MyCiTi buses were burnt out in 2014 and 2017, and the cost to replace these buses was R4 205 000.

Turning to Golden Arrow statistics six buses were set alight between March 2016 and September 2017. According to Herron the cost to replace these buses was over R12 million, and a further R529 000 was spent on replacing shattered bus windows as a result of stoning incidents along the routes where the Golden Arrow buses operate.

Rail stats

The latest statistics from Prasa show an alarming increase in the number of attacks on the commuter rail service.

“Metrorail reported a total of 668 incidents relating to vandalism and other attacks on its rolling stock in the Western Cape in the 2016/17 financial year. This reflects an increase of 533 incidents, or 400%, from the 2014/15 financial year when 135 incidents were reported,” Herron notes.

In addition, the number of incidents related to the vandalism and theft of other urban rail infrastructure in the Western Cape has increased from 197 in the 2014/15 financial year to 312 in the 2016/17 financial year.

Low arrest rates

While attacks on Cape Town’s public transport system are on the rise the number of arrests being made in relation to the incidents is alarmingly low according to Herron.

“Worryingly, only 26 arrests were made in connection with the 312 incidents that were reported to the South African Police Service in 2016/’17. This means that arrests were effected in only 8% of the reported incidents.

“This pattern repeats itself across all of the public transport services – be it the MyCiTi service, GABS, or Metrorail – and confirms that those responsible for the sabotage of public transport services in Cape Town mostly get away with it.”

“I am calling on the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape to address this as a matter of urgency,” Herron concludes.