The passenger rail network has lacked proper protection since security companies’ services were terminated late last year.
The Cleveland train station in Johannesburg has been vandalised and stripped of its infrastructure during lockdown. Picture: Edwin Ntshidi/EWN
CAPE TOWN – The wrecked state of the country’s passenger rail service network has come under the spotlight in Parliament.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has been briefing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP)’s Transport select committee on the theft, arson and vandalism that has laid waste to the system.
Incidents spiked dramatically during the hard lockdown.
The network has lacked proper protection since security companies’ services were terminated late last year.
Prasa is now on a drive to directly appoint 3,100 security officials to protect its assets, passengers and staff.
Prasa’s interim accounting authority, Badisa Matshego, doesn’t discount sabotage and the involvement of organised crime in the damage inflicted on the country’s passenger rail network.
He said that Treasury last week approved a R900 million transfer for Prasa to beef up security. But Matshego said that Prasa also needed intelligence-gathering capacity and more support from law enforcement agencies.
“What we are now facing is concerted attacks by even armed criminals and what we suspect are large, well-organised groups.”
Reinforced walls with security features, airborne cameras, drones and patrols are all planned to curb the stripping of stations, theft of cables and equipment. The relocation of illegal settlements on railway
lines is also on the cards.
Head of Prasa technical, Hishaam Emeran’s told the committee that the agency should have 280 train sets, but only 80 are operational.