Western Cape Metrorail fires estimated to have caused R33m in damages

Prasa spent millions on purchasing 2,000 solar lights to protect its depots. At most only 24 of them were ever put to use, according to a forensic report. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Prasa spent millions on purchasing 2,000 solar lights to protect its depots. At most only 24 of them were ever put to use, according to a forensic report. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Sunday’s fire, suspected to be arson, destroyed 12 coaches, two motor coaches and nine plain trailers.

Metrorail Western Cape has suffered yet another setback to its train services, after two train sets were torched on Sunday afternoon.

Platform 13 and 14 were “senselessly” torched as winds fanned the blaze.

It took the Fire and Rescue team hours to extinguish the blaze at approximately, and only managed to do so successfully at 19:12.

ALSO READ: Two trains alight at Cape Town station on Sunday afternoon

All train movements at Cape Town station had to be stopped as a safety precaution.

A total of 12 coaches were destroyed, as well as two motor coaches and nine plain trailers, confirmed Metrorail Group Chief Strategy Officer Dr Sipho Sithole.

“The estimated cost from Rolling Stock damages currently stands at R33 million. Approximately 300 meters of centenary and contact wires which are critical to automate train control has been damaged.”

No injuries either to staff or commuters were reported, and train services were restored by Sunday evening. SAPS Detectives were on the scene and, along with the CCTV footage, a “robust investigation” is underway, Sithole said.  

Initial indications point to arson as the cause of the fires.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande said on Monday that a “sinister force” was at work, trying to destroy South Africa’s commuter rail system.

In a statement, Nzimande condemned Sunday’s arson attack at Cape Town station.

“It is now undeniable that there is a sinister force at work trying to destroy our rail system,” said Nzimande.

“It is also clear that this force is relentless and determined to reverse the ANC government gains and efforts being made to modernise Metrorail service, particularly in the Cape Town metro corridor.”

The minister called on law enforcement agencies to arrest the perpetrators.

Metrorail in the Western Cape planned to increase its train capacity to 60 by mid-April. It also received two new trail trains and R9.1 billion in funding to upgrade rail infrastructure.

R3 billion of the funding was to be used to phase in 35 new train sets, R2.9 billion would be used to upgrade the maintenance depot and security, R1.6 billion for station upgrades, and R1.6 billion for the replacement of signalling, Sithole explained.

A new train control centre for the movement of Western Cape train operations is almost complete, as well as upgraded train signals, to automate train movements.

“The strength of the Modernisation Programme and the deployment of the trial trains lies in the protection and preservation of our assets.

“The serious rate of the destruction of PRASA property is indeed a setback and an affront to tax payers that fund such government programs for all South Africans” said Chairperson of the PRASA Board of Control Khanyisile Kweyama.

Additional reporting by ANA

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