‘A disaster waiting to happen’

Patches of erosion are clearly visible along the embankment of the railway line between Dalebrook and St James.

Erosion and neglect of the embankment along the railway line between Dalebrook and St James is “a disaster waiting to happen”, says Kalk Bay Historical Association secretary Steve Herbert.

“I can just see a train going over the edge and into the sea, if the embankment gives way,” says Mr Herbert.

The poor state of the embankment had been a problem for many years, he said, adding that after he had reported the issue to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in 2010, it had sent out an engineer who had told him the damage to the embankment needed urgent attention.

However, when no action had been taken a year later, Mr Herbert contacted Prasa again.

This time, he said, two officials had come out to inspect the embankment.

“They agreed that there was remedial work needed but stopped short of saying it was urgent. They said they would take it forward.”

In 2016, the Kalk Bay and St James Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association contacted Metrorail, which said it would “pass it on”.

In 2017, a senior Metrorail official acknowledged the concerns Mr Herbert had outlined in an email and said they had been sent to the relevant department to deal with.

Since then, Mr Herbert said, some temporary remedial work had been done – concrete and ballast had been poured into the holes of the embankment, but over the years, some of the ballast had fallen into the sea and rock pool polluting them.

He said he had reported it again last year and, to date, had not had a response.

“The damage is evident after the last winter storms. It is much worse than when I reported it in 2010, and I believe there is a real risk of the track giving way under the train or the line being closed for months while work is done.”

City of Cape Town speaker Felicity Purchase said she had inspected the site two weeks ago and had also raised concerns with Prasa but had not had any response.

It appeared that the ballast and embankment needed urgent attention, she said.

The chairman of the Kalk Bay and St James Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, Tony Trimmel, said he had tried, in November and again earlier this week, to contact the Metrorail official he had dealt with in 2016 but had been unable to reach him.

Due to the poor state of the embankment, people walked on the railway tracks, which was “extremely dangerous” as there had been a “few misses” recently, he said.

He said the ocean-side line had not been in use in recent months and the trains had only used the line closest to the mountain, which made it more dangerous as people expected the train from Muizenberg to Fish Hoek to use the line closest to the ocean and then they walked on the line closest to the mountain.

Prasa acting regional manager Raymond Maseko told the Echo he had visited the site on Wednesday January 24 and would submit a report to Prasa’s engineering team, but he did not respond to any of our emailed questions by deadline.

Erosion of the embankment along the railway line between Dalebrook and St James has caused large patches to disintegrate.
The poor state of the embankment has been a problem for many years, according to Kalk Bay Historical Association secretary Steve Herbert.