Direct action is being taken in South Africa to improve the safety of passengers and help see an end to budget-crippling arson and vandalism, after the City of Cape Town and its operator Metrorail Western Cape joined forces. As a result of the union the city will introduce the Rail Enforcement Unit, a team of security professionals that will patrol trains often targeted by vandals and criminals and which has seen services grind to a halt.
Now, following an agreement with Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), the country’s regulator, there's hope that they can introduce a fleet of rolling stock that can meet demands of commuters in the city. Cape Town officials have said that a minimum of 88 trains are needed for this, but that currently fewer than 40 were regularly in operation.
Speaking on the security unit that would be deployed in Cape Town, Brett Herron from the mayoral committee (Mayco) in South Africa, and quoted in South African media, said: “Our dedicated rail enforcement unit will reside under the command and control of our safety and security management, and will seek to improve the safety of commuters and reduce the opportunity for vandalism of the infrastructure.”
The roll-out of the Rail Enforcement Unit is seen as an essential ingredient to helping reverse the trend of decommissioned trains, but that network resources would need to be improved upon if the region is to bring about the much-needed restoration of Metrorail’s rolling stock. An upgrade to Cape Town’s trains was due this year, but has been postponed following the recent problems.
SmartRail World reported in July during a particularly troubling time for South Africa’s rail operators, when a fifth train in a matter of weeks was reportedly set alight and vandalised, causing an estimated 30 million Rand (£1.7 million) of damage. The financial implications of those attacks could not come at a worse time for Prasa, which recorded record losses for the 2016/17 financial year that came close to double the amount it had lost in the previous year.
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