'PRASA is under siege' - acting CEO Cromet Molepo

Extra private security personnel brought in to deal with challenges in Cape Town

'PRASA is under siege' - acting CEO on latest Cape Town rail attack

26 February 2018

Cape Town - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is under siege by criminals - this on top of having to make use of outdated technology, its acting group CEO has said following the shooting of an armed contractor who was guarding train drivers in Philippi.

On Sunday morning, the contractor was wounded in the shoulder when a group of men shot at him while he was driving in Samora Machel.

The contractor was escorting train drivers who were on duty - one of the extreme security measures in place to try and ensure the safety of PRASA staff.

In early January, a security guard with Metrorail, which falls under PRASA, was shot dead during a robbery in Khayelitsha

Last week News24 reported that brazen thieves, targeting underground and overhead rail cables, as well as train tracks, had become the focus of intense and unprecedented operations to squeeze out criminals who target beleaguered Metrorail's infrastructure.

As part of an extreme clampdown, extra private security personnel had been brought in. Officers armed with shotguns were tasked with monitoring specific hotspots along railway lines.

PRASA on Sunday issued a statement saying the shooting of the contractor was the latest in a series of attacks on its staff.

Acting group CEO Cromet Molepo said PRASA had started hiring more security personnel, but that the money that has been allocated for this could have instead gone toward providing better service for commuters.

"PRASA is under siege and yet we service a high number of passengers who rely solely on our services," he said.

'Onslaught of criminal attacks'

"PRASA is the only public transport service that is currently under such tremendous pressure to deliver services using old and obsolete technology at a low cost to customers, but one that is the least respected as evidenced by the relentless onslaught of vandalism and criminal attacks against our personnel and infrastructure," he said.

Last week Metrorail's regional manager Richard Walker said in a statement that 88 extra armed security guards had been deployed during the day and night "to enable technical teams to repair vital equipment and prevent further attacks on rail infrastructure".

On Sunday a statement issued by PRASA said two armoured vehicles had also been deployed day and night.

'Ongoing delays, vandalism'

"These measures have been brought about by the ongoing delays in opening the vital central line for operations as criminals continue to strip and vandalise the line at an unprecedented rate causing delays and derailments as a result of stolen rail tracks," the statement read.

In December, a critical commuter route for Metrorail - its central line between Khayelitsha and Cape Town - had to be suspended due to vandalism, leaving thousands of commuters in the lurch.

In early January, the Metrorail security guard was shot dead during a robbery in Khayelitsha, also causing operations along the line to be suspended.

'Security not good enough'

On Monday, UniteBehind, a coalition representing several non-governmental organisations and which is backing at least two court cases against PRASA, issued a statement saying that the closure of the central line had left about 120 000 commuters stranded.

"It is clear that the security measures implemented by PRASA are not good enough," it said.

"#UniteBehind are calling for a proper safety plan and for PRASA officials to engage with members of the community and the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport."