Transport union concerned over Prasa’s readiness to resume train services

Metrorail in Cape Town. Picture: ANA

It is understood that train coaches will now carry 42 passengers, as opposed to the normal 420 passengers.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) raised its concern over the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) readiness to resume its limited train services on Wednesday, 1 July 2020.

This comes after the union said it received numerous reports of serious problems at the railway company.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula announced on Tuesday that Prasa planned on only resuming 15% of the normal capacity and to use marshals to assist the Prasa protection services with crowd control.

Mbalula said the South African Police Services (SAPS) promised to assist Prasa by allocating 40 police officials nationwide.

In a statement, UNTU acting-general secretary John Pereira said Prasa did not have time to attend to all the neglected areas since its Covid-19 budget was only approved last week.

“In Durban, UNTU members reported that their Prasa cell phones have once again been suspended to non-payment of the network services. This makes it difficult for the Umlazi-Durban-Kwamashu route to resume as the lack of signals and the use of manual authorisations took two and half hours last week,” Pereira said.

Pereira said the UNTU members had also complained about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“They were not issued with facial masks, but were given a can of 5 litres of sanitiser to sanitise employees resuming their duties tomorrow and to sanitise commuters.

“Several stations and platforms on the Umlazi route have not been cleaned for weeks after the contracts of the cleaning company was not renewed. There are some stations with no running water and at some stations the toilets are blocked and cannot be used, creating a health hazard for commuters and Prasa employees,” he said.

The acting-general secretary further said train drivers in Cape Town report that there were little of them who could resume their duties.

“Because of the prolonged period they had to sit at home during the lockdown, the train drivers need to do refresher training on the route before they can start driving again and they need to undergo medical examinations. According to them, Prasa failed to pay the bill of the medical practitioners.

“The train control office who authorises the drivers in the Western Cape, were closed today after two Covid-19 positive case were reported. The offices have been sanitized and is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday morning at 6am,” he added.

Pereira added that he believed the Pretoria-Pienaarspoort route seems ready to resume services.

He said it was crucial for the South African economy that Prasa resume its train services. as it is the cheapest form of transport for millions of workers.

“UNTU calls on all commuters and communities to assist with the fight against vandalism and theft of Prasa infrastructure and to report any incidents. Prasa belongs to all the South African taxpayers who fund it. It is a vital asset that we as South African’s need to protect for generations to come,” said the acting-general secretary.

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