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Little security for rail infrastructure

“Middle-class people have to use dilapidated trains from the townships, while often arriving late for work.”

These were the words of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, at the medium-term budget framework speech last month. To most commuters, this is but one of the many things they have to endure when taking the train.

For those who take the train, “delays”, “set out of service” and “infrastructure conditions” are what rings from the announcement speakers at train stations daily, if there are any at all.

On Tuesday morning (19 November) at Huguenot station, the train was delayed between 30 and 40 minutes, with no announcement made to alert passengers to the delay and a give them the time to make alternative transport arrangements. Most stations do not make service announcements, often leaving commuters waiting and in the dark as to whether the train will be coming or not.

This usually is the result of vandalism and damaged infrastructure.

After 20 private security companies’ contracts were terminated at the end of October, there was a spike in vandalism, as there is no one to man the stations and railways. According to reports, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, stated that the contracts between Prasa and the security companies were irregular. This was a statement made while Madonsela served as Public Protector.

So why did they wait to the last minute and not appoint other security companies? Now we see acts of vandalism by former security officials, who are now sitting without employment, taking place at train stations. As if the current vandalism situation is not enough.

The United National Transport Union’s leadership was assured by Prasa’s Acting Chief Executive, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, that an interim arrangement is in place and that 3 100 officers of the Rapid Rail Unit, together with the police will be deployed to protect commuters, assets and employees. Clearly this has not materialised.

Over the past few years, many promises have been made that were not fulfilled. The most affordable and convenient form of public transport has become a commuter’s nightmare, with little hope apparently of the railway systems getting back on it’s feet.

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