It has become a monument to the mismanagement of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) and failings of Metrorail and the ANC government to provide a reliable rail service to the commuters in Cape Town.
Every day, thousands of people walk past the so-called “People’s Train” in front of Cape Town station, and can only dream of the day the new trains will take them to their destinations.
The blue train – “The People’s Train” – was unveiled and tested at Cape Town station, where President Cyril Ramaphosa and former transport minister Blade Nzimande cut the ribbon and took a ride to Mowbray station in April last year.
DA provincial spokesperson on Transport and Public Works, Daylin Mitchell, said the train launch 10 months ago was merely Ramaphosa placing new locomotives at the entrance of Cape Town station, where the carriages remain to this day.
Mitchell said that was not a launch; it was the setting up of a showroom which served as a convenient election ploy.
“If the hundreds of thousands of stranded rail commuters in our province are wondering what the ANC is doing to fix our rail system, they need only pay a visit to this rail exhibition gathering dust next to Adderley Street.
“I’ve no doubt this PR stunt will see another year pass before anything is done to fix the train crisis,” he said.
United National Transport Union spokesperson Sonja Carstens said the train was just an “election campaign” to create an idea that those trains would be running in Cape Town soon.
Carstens said in Pretoria those trains were still in the pilot project stage, “and that’s been the case for three to four years”.
“With vandalism crippling our stations, there’s is no way these trains would run in the next year.”
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott deferred a response pending a briefing “on status”.
#UniteBehind spokesperson Matthew Hirsch said while “we” hope that the new trains would be functional soon, that would not solve the crisis at the Passenger Rail Association of SA (Prasa).
“Ageing infrastructure, lack of leadership, a critical skills shortage, and the absence of safety and security for commuters, workers and assets are the most obvious signs of an SOE that has been brought to its knees through a decade of corruption,” Hirsch said.
He said Cape Town cannot afford to be without a working commuter rail system – “our roads are far too congested and affordable housing is too far from jobs. We must fix our trains”.
The United Commuters Voice (UCV) spokesperson Joao Jardim said Nzimande said the peoples trains would be running in Cape Town by December 2019. “There was no need to flog a dead horse,” Jardim said.