The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) said interventions would be implemented by its security services to protect its employees.
This follows the stoning of a 38-year-old female Metrorail train driver by an angry mob of commuters last month. The driver, who was en route from Durban to KwaDukuza (Stanger), was attacked after she refused to make an unauthorised stop.
The United National Transport Union (Untu) told The Mercury last week that vandalism, ageing infrastructure and attacks on train drivers by angry commuters were some of the issues affecting the train services in KwaZulu-Natal and across the country. Commuters at Durban Station said issues of safety, overcrowding and late trains were some of the challenges they were dealing with.
Responding to questions from The Mercury, Prasa’s national spokesperson, Nana Zenani, said it was disappointed by the senseless attacks on their employees who were merely carrying out their duties.
She said all Prasa’s operational employees carried out their duties in accordance with safety-regulated protocols that governed every decision made, particularly train drivers and guards.
“Any stoppages made are done so as to protect our commuters. It’s therefore reprehensible that certain rogue elements would attack the very people who are protecting their safety by not moving trains at danger zones (red signals and crossovers),” said Zenani.
In response to last month’s attack, Zenani said interventions to protect employees would be implemented by Prasa’s security services.
She said the Rapid Rail Police Unit were stationed at various train stations for a quick response.
According to Zenani, the junction end stations, where lines to several destinations diverged, would be closely monitored for incidents of crime.
She said train drivers were requested to immediately inform the Joint Operations Centre of any incidents.
“Train drivers must ensure that doors are closed and stone guards are up all the time to prevent being hurt by stone-throwing, angry commuters,” added Zenani.
She said Prasa security area commanders would be monitoring potential threats on trains and sections.
Zenani said station guards would be briefed to be extra vigilant and to report criminal behaviour.
Untu had claimed that employees had no protection following the decision taken by Prasa’s previous board not to renew security contracts.
In response, Zenani said Prasa was ordered by the court to reappoint the existing security companies that were dismissed by the previous board.
All of the commuters The Mercury spoke to complained about the shortage of trains.
Zenani said a shortage of train sets meant that Durban had had to run shorter train sets than the 12-coach train, which had caused overcrowding.
Zenani said: “Due to the shortage of trains, the region has had to split the sets into two corridors to manage the demand and the overcrowding.”
The corridors include uMlazi to Durban station and KwaMashu to Dalbridge station.
Zenani said the corridors were split in an effort to minimise disruptions on the north and south lines.
Through the modernisation programme, Zenani said that going forward Prasa would roll out new trains and would fix infrastructure, such as signals.
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Source: The Mercury