The City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) will host a rail summit early in 2018 in an effort to find short-term solutions that will address the commuter rail crisis as we work towards the incremental takeover of the urban rail function. Read more below:
A rail summit will be hosted early in the new year when the City of Cape Town will meet with role-players from the private sector, business leaders, and other interested and affected parties to devise short-term interventions to address the current crisis that rail commuters face on a daily basis.
‘This morning I took the Metrorail northern line to experience what the conditions are like for commuters who travel between the northern suburbs and Cape Town station. The overcrowding, frustration, anxiety, and desperation of those who needed to get on the train to get to work were similar to what I personally saw and experienced on my commute on the Metrorail Central Line on 30 November.
‘We departed from Kraaifontein station shortly after 06:00. The carriage was packed beyond capacity – I did not expect this, given that the schools are closed and some people are already on leave. At one of the stations I was nearly pushed through the open door as desperate men and women were trying to get onto the train while others were trying to get off. It was harrowing, and I may have ended up on the tracks were it not for a young man who pulled me back in. Those making use of Metrorail literally have to fight their way in and out of the carriages every day. Commuting by train in Cape Town is stressful and degrading – you are exhausted once you reach your destination and then you still have to work an eight-hour day.‘We simply cannot allow commuters to be subjected to these inhumane conditions indefinitely. Thus, I have decided to call for a rail summit where we all have to gather and work on a crisis plan to address the most pressing issues as a matter of urgency,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, Councillor Brett Herron.
The president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, Janine Myburgh, accompanied Councillor Herron on the commute from Kraaifontein station to Cape Town station.
‘Commuters are being let down. They are subjected to trauma every time they have to get on and off the trains. I expected the carriage to be overcrowded, but it was much worse than I could have imagined. Any effort to improve the rail system must be supported,’ said Myburgh.
The TDA has devised a business plan which stipulates how the City intends to take over passenger rail. Council on 26 October 2017 approved the plan and agreed that the takeover must happen gradually so that the City can plan ahead, acquire the necessary skills, and develop the additional capacity to ensure the long-term sustainability of passenger rail.
‘We need to engage with National Government for the necessary approvals and funding for taking over commuter rail in an incremental and structural manner. It may take at least another 24 months before we can take over some of the functions that are currently being managed by Metrorail. That said, we are facing a real risk that passenger rail in Cape Town could collapse before this happens.
‘Thus, in January I will take senior business leaders with me on Metrorail’s Central Line so that they too can see what their employees face day after day. I am hoping that once business leaders have personally experienced the rail commute they will have a better understanding of what we are facing and what we can do to address the most pressing issues while the City is working on the longer-term strategy of taking over the urban rail function,’ said Councillor Herron.