Prasa issues ultimatum after train violence

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pretoria - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has issued a strong warning to the Pienaarspoort and Greenview communities that Metrorail services in the area will be suspended if passenger violence does not stop in the next five days.

"There have been recorded cases of unruly crowds forcing the train driver, at gunpoint, to take the train to Pienaarspoort on an unscheduled trip," Prasa said after it conducted a site visit and compiled a Risk Assessment Report.

Prasa Group Chief Executive Officer Tshepo Lucky Montana said the "lawlessness on a massive scale" left them with no option other than to suspend Metrorail services for five days unless the situation improves.

Last Tuesday, a security guard and a commuter were shot and wounded on a train when a conductor asked to see tickets at Pienaarspoort.

The assessors feared spiralling crime, assaults on staff, decoupling coaches to make them stop, fare evasion and threats with firearms were compromising the safety of commuters and staff.

The company had tried to manage the situation but last week's shooting where two people were injured, forced the ultimatum.

Montana said Metrorail could not guarantee services in an environment that continues to expose their assets and staff to unabated criminal threats nor can they guarantee the safety of the commuters and staff under these circumstances.

He appealed to community leaders, political leadership and stakeholders to take firm, immediate and decisive action against criminal elements who continued to compromise the safety and security of commuters, staff and assets and to take necessary steps to ensure that incidents, like the shooting incident last week, did not recur.

According to the Risk Assessment Report, which painted a grim picture of the operating environment, the infrastructure in the area was not suitable for modern commuter rail services and needed to be upgraded.

"The platform at the station is not wide enough to handle increasing commuter volumes and this poses a serious safety risk to commuters."

Prasa will be investing R230 million towards building new stations in Pienaarspoort, Panpoort and Eerste Fabriek and upgrading other infrastructure in a project due to commence in November 2009.