Vandalism and theft costing Prasa billions
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Cape Town – The damage caused by vandalism at Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) stations is costing the entity billions of rands.
The affected line is the central line which is the route from Cape Town to Chris Hani and Kapteinsklip stations.
The line stopped running in November 2019 as a result of cable theft and vandalism.
This is not the only problem that sees a halt on the line in Langa and Philippi. Some people have erected shacks on the railway lines which means that the central line will still be out of operation.
There have been efforts to move the shacks, and Prasa even got an eviction order from the Western Cape High Court.
Prasa spokesperson Bane Ndlovu said the central corridor used to carry around 43% of the region's traffic.
“Our largest revenue year was in 2014/15 financial year, around R800 million. The damage to the stations and rail network has been estimated to be R1.4 billion. This does not include lost revenue, just the asset damage,” he said.
Ndlovu said the cost to repair the system is classified into three categories; security related, infrastructure reinstatement, and operations.
He said security costs are estimated to be around R2 billion which comprises walling, drainage, service roads, lighting, CCTV and communication infrastructure.
He said the infrastructure rehabilitation which includes overhead traction equipment, signalling, telecommunications, stations, and rail reserves would cost them R1.4 billion.
Ndlovu added that in operations they lost a lot of skilled workers that were distributed to other areas.
“Retraining will be required for train drivers, front line staff, maintainers of new technology, and others, and it will cost R500 million,” he said.
#UniteBehind, a civil society organisation made up of different organisations that fight for peoples’ rights, has been instrumental in calling for the central line to be opened again.
Spokesperson Zukiswa Vuka said from their observations, Prasa had become the target of criminals due to their failure to protect the infrastructure.
“We have seen during Level 5 when the entire country was on total lockdown, there were no precautions taken by Prasa to protect their infrastructure, the rails and stations were unguarded,” she said.
She said they have said in the past that Prasa needs to prioritise commuters and understand that a commuter voice would be very vital in their turnaround plans.
Vuka said Prasa was losing money and it was going to cost them even more to repair everything.
“Ideally we would like the central line to be operational sooner rather than later, due to the impact it has on the commuters,” she said.