STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OR TRANSPORT AND PUBLIC WORKS, DONALD GRANT, AND THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER: TRANSPORT FOR CAPE TOWN, COUNCILLOR BRETT HERRON

City and Western Cape Government condemn violent protests that resulted in Metrorail trains being set alight.

Approximately 150 000 commuters have been affected this morning, 21 September 2016, by the temporary suspension of Metrorail’s central line service due to the violent destruction and sabotage of vital public transport infrastructure, stemming from unrelated protests that have spilled over into the rail network.

The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government condemn, in the strongest terms, the violent protest action in Langa that has seen multiple Metrorail train carriages being set alight, and serious damage caused to apparatus cases, track boxes, and signalling equipment. The damage is estimated to run into millions of rands.

Not only have these actions completely crippled the rail network’s operation on the Khayelitsha/Kapteinsklip corridor, but they have also threatened the safety of commuters and placed Metrorail employees at risk. On advice from the South African Police Service (SAPS), Metrorail has had to suspend trains from all stations in the central service corridor until further notice.

Our law-abiding residents who leave their homes in the early morning hours to be in time for work and school are held ransom by people who have no regard for the law.

Over the past several months our critical but ailing commuter rail system has endured relentless attacks that have left the service limping along, with devastating consequences for our commuters and our city’s economy.

The City of Cape Town’s reliance on Metrorail for public transport is unparalleled in our country, with the biggest portion of public transport users relying on rail to commute daily. This is a pattern we need to encourage and protect. We cannot have our commuters deserting the rail service and moving to road-based transport – in particular private cars – since this would be a massive set-back for our already congested roads and our city’s long-term sustainability.

The impact on our poorest residents should our rail service continue to be destroyed would be catastrophic. Rail is the most efficient and affordable means of transport for those who live far away from jobs and opportunities.

Despite sustained attacks on the rail service, we are yet to see any consequences for those who commit these crimes of sabotage of critical infrastructure. Without consequences how are we to turn this tide?

The South African Police Service must arrest those responsible so that they can be charged and prosecuted. We cannot allow this situation to continue indefinitely. We urge the SAPS and the prosecuting authority to do what needs to be done urgently to deal with the intimidation, arson and even murder of Metrorail employees.

An additional 555 commuters travelled on the MyCiTi N2 Express service between Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and Cape Town this morning. We anticipate that the passenger numbers will increase over the next few days and for as long as Metrorail’s central line is not operating.

Transport for Cape Town, the City’s transport authority, implemented additional trips on the N2 Express service earlier this month. As such, the MyCiTi service can currently accommodate more passengers – as has been the case this morning. We are monitoring the situation and will add additional buses if needed.

Residents from the Cape Flats are encouraged to please make use of the MyCiTi service during this time.

The N2 Express service provides an affordable, convenient and scheduled alternative to travel to the Cape Town central business district:

  • The first buses on Route D01 (Khayelitsha East) and Route D02 (Khayelitsha West) depart from Kuyasa at 04:55 and 04:50 respectively on week days
  • The first buses on Route D03 (Mitchells Plain East) depart from the Town Centre at 05:28 on week days and the buses on Route D04 (Mitchells Plain West) depart from the Kapteinsklip railway station at 04:40 on week days

A MyCiTi journey along these routes to the Civic Centre station in Cape Town costs approximately R18 (Mover fare) and R25,50 (Standard fare) for a one-way trip during the peak-hour period and approximately R12,50 (Mover fare) and R17,70 (Standard fare) during the off-peak period.

Commuters are reminded that cash is not accepted on the buses. Passengers need a myconnect card to travel and load money to pay for their trips. Commuters can buy a myconnect card for R30 at the Town Centre kiosk in Mitchells Plain, at the Kuyasa kiosk in Khayelitsha, or at the Civic Centre station.

Commuters can call the Transport Information Centre (TIC) on 0800 65 64 63 for more information. The TIC is available 24/7 and callers are assisted in English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans.

Minister Grant met with Metrorail Regional Manager, Richard Walker, this morning and discussed the current state that the rail network finds itself in as a result of protest action that has nothing to do with Metrorail. We echo Mr Walker’s call on authorities to do all they can to bring an end to violent protests and further commit to assisting Metrorail in whatever way possible to ensure that public transport services are restored for the over 150 000 commuters residing along the Khayelitsha/Kapteinsklip corridor who are estimated to have been adversely affected.

We will continue to provide such assistance where possible, in keeping with our objective to provide safe and reliable public transport in this province.