Appropriate measures must be taken to protect rail infrastructure and all assets belonging to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), transport portfolio committee chairperson Mosebenzi Zwane said after 24 carriages in Bloemfontein were set alight.
News24 reported on Sunday that 24 disused Shosholoza Meyl train carriages were burned at Bloemfontein railway station on Saturday, with a group of youths under suspicion after they had been chased out of the yard.
No services were disrupted because the carriages were a distance away from the station itself, but the fire affected critical cables at the depot. The carriages are worth R90m, but the damages are estimated at R4m.
In a statement, Zwane said the amount of money the government was losing daily due to vandalism of the rail infrastructure was alarming and concerning.
“Nothing should be left to chance in guarding against this kind of sabotage. The committee will forever condemn the illegal acts of burning government infrastructure, perpetuated for no apparent reasons other than destructive behaviour, silliness, and short-sightedness.”
He said the committee supported all the efforts by the Department of Transport to bring to the perpetrators to book.
“While the investigations are continuing, proper security plans should be crafted and implemented expeditiously countrywide, and such plans are crucial because rail is central to a functioning public transport that links poor South Africans to economic opportunities,” Zwane added.
He said the failure to protect government infrastructure would result in sporadic burnings in other provinces.
“No stone should be left unturned in bringing the perpetrators of the latest burning to book.”
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said in a statement the arson was a “pure act of criminality and will be dealt with as swiftly and as harshly as possible”.
Last year saw several similar incidents in the Western Cape.
In December, two minors, aged 14 and 15, were arrested after footage and pictures of them allegedly torching trains went viral. The two were wanted for an incident that gutted 18 carriages at Cape Town station on November 28 which left countless passengers stranded.