Metrorail hopes to bring its operational train sets up to 60 from 48 by April, as they have not recorded any major infrastructure damage to its network since the launch of the Rail Enforcement Unit (REU).
During its first quarterly briefing on Thursday February 14, Metrorail regional manager, Richard Walker, said the REU had participated
in 133 joint operations, made 66 arrests and confiscated
hundreds of metres of cabling, dangerous weapons and other items in the course of the
11 041 searches conducted since its launch in October last year.
“We can see the REU’s force multiplying effect clearly, proving our contention that the more law enforcement agencies collaborate, the better crime is addressed and order restored on trains. Our collective challenge is to make security actions so visible and impactful that commuters are reassured that their safety is top priority,” he said.
Mr Walker said cable theft remained a key challenge but said they had a number of interventions including the promulgation of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act which has helped to enforce laws and make sure that traders complied.
Mr Walker said, however, they needed to focus on non-compliant, established scrap dealers, who continued to buy the scrap knowing it came from one of the operators in the industry such as Eskom, Telkom and Metrorail.
“We need to lobby for more meaningful successes in bringing them to book – arrest them, seize their assets and make them appear in court,” he said.
Mr Walker said they have come a long way since 2015 in terms of successful prosecutions, where it had merely been seen as a “slap on the wrist” with release shortly thereafter.
He said they could now charge suspects under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act – where they would stay in jail until the court proceedings had been finalised. He said they had finalised 26 cases, with a 95-year cumulative sentencing.
“If you are found guilty,
you can get anything from a three- to 30-year sentence,” he said.
REU head Neil Arendse said the unit had also confiscated dangerous weapons, fraudulent tickets, illegal substances and alcohol, as well as laptops and cellphones they believed were stolen from commuters.
MEC of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, said they had a clear objective when they launched the unit – to strengthen Metrorail’s ability to provide a safe and reliable service as an urgent priority.
“The rampant violent crime, vandalism, arson, and theft had crippled the rail network, adversely affecting the thousands of commuters who rely on the service on a daily basis.
“Since inception, the Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) has been a valuable force multiplier, providing much-needed manpower at operations, and has targeted criminals who target the rail network with the intention to destabilise it.
“I am optimistic that the positive results and noticeable impact achieved thus far
by the REU are a sign of greater things to come. We hope that over time, commuter confidence in rail transportation will be restored, and that communities will work with us in combating rail crimes.”
Mr Walker said the modernisation of the rail network was a key focus and said they had completed 70% of its re-signalling — replacing many of its old copper based infrastructure, andcommunication lines with fibre. He said they had replaced all the track boxes on the southern line and removed all ladders and old apparatus cases.
Mr Walker said the Cape Town to Simon’s Town and Cape Flats lines were operating under new signalling, and said the Mutual/Thornton line would be completed next month, followed by the Bellville line.
He said their commuter numbers had dropped from 620 000 daily users in 2015, to below 300 000 and they were working hard to get the public back on the trains and off the roads.
Mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase said the collaboration by the three spheres of government was an important milestone.
“It doesn’t often happen that all three spheres of government get to collaborate in this fashion, and to also record the successes that we’ve seen during the past three months.
“The REU is making a real difference and I want to add, I’m expecting that more commuters will return to rail as the safety and security across the whole system improves over time.
“Passenger rail must be the backbone of public transport in Cape Town as it is the most efficient and affordable modes of transport.
“It’s in the interest of all of us who live and work here to ensure that this project succeeds and that we shift commuters from road-based transport to our rail service.”