This statement follows an oversight visit to the Geldenhuis Train Station, in Ekurhuleni, by the DA Shadow Minister of transport, Manny de Freitas MP, accompanied by the DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP, and the DA Member of the Gauteng Legislature, Paul Willemburgh MPL. An English soundbite by Manny de Freitas, and an isiZulu soundbite by Zakhele Mbhele, are attached.
Following our oversight visit to the Geldenhuis Train Station today, the DA was left appalled by the dire state of our rail infrastructure. This oversight follows four derailments in less than a month including the 9 January train accident in Germiston, which left over 200 people injured.
We saw clear signs of vandalism. Commuters complained about chronically late trains, criminals having free reign on the rail system, and feared that more train accidents could potentially claim their lives.
The commuters’ complaints of the dilapidated infrastructure at train stations and the poor conditions of trains point to a clear lack of proper planning and the absence of decisive leadership at Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
Despite the Minister’s claims that “there is no crisis” at PRASA, our interactions with ordinary citizens today prove otherwise.
The DA has on numerous occasions called on the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, to urgently address the issues at PRASA. The DA proposes that the government implement the following actions steps with the necessary urgency:
- Appoint a capable, qualified, full-time board and executives at PRASA with untainted track records;
- Implement an emergency safety plan that includes a dedicated police unit in the form of Railway Police to take over security operations as the current private security company is not fully equipped to combat crime and vandalism;
- To order an urgent update as to the progress made in upgrading the current signal system so that no manual signal is used and to therefore avoid unnecessary incidents of crashes, derailments and security issues;
- That PRASA cede control of Metrorail services and the allocated budget to Metro councils to ensure an efficient and safe integrated transportation system is delivered to commuters.
South Africans who board trains on a daily basis experience first-hand the incidents of theft of their belongings, vandalism and their personal safety is not guaranteed. Whenever they board a train they commute with the constant fear of falling victim to crime.
This is creating an environment for criminals to thrive and the unsafe railway lines demonstrate the lack of leadership and investment by PRASA into Metrorail services.
We need a total overhaul of the leadership at PRASA and urgent action is required from Minister Maswanganyi to address the current conditions of commuter safety in order to ensure a safe, reliable and integrated transport.