A railway-safety activist has slammed a decision by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa to pull the plug on a unit that helped to protect commuters on crime-plagued trains.
The Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) was introduced as a pilot project in October 2018
and started off with a 100 officers that were recruited and trained as peace officers by the City of Cape Town, (“Rail enforcement unit deployed,” Echo, October 29, 2018).
The project was a joint operation by the City, Prasa and the provincial government.
Felicity Purchase, mayoral committee member for transport, said the agreement had come to an end on June 30.
The unit had searched
37 000 individuals during stop-and-search operations, conducted more than 4 000 patrols in hot spots and arrested 424 suspects, she said.
It had also recovered more than 2 000 meters of stolen copper and aluminium cables between July last year and June this year.
“I believe the REU has made an impact, and we will continue liaising with Prasa and the other stakeholders regarding the possibility of reviving the unit or alternative solutions in future.”
Some of the officers had joined the City’s rural safety unit while the rest would be considered for future enforcement projects, she said.
Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said the REU had only been meant to run for a year but there had been funds left over at the end of that period, so it had continued its work until they’d been exhausted.
Prasa had now adopted a security strategy of in-house protection and technology and would make an announcement soon, she said.
Leslie van Minnen, the chairman of the Rail Commuters Action Group said he was shocked to hear the contract had not been renewed.
He said he was a member of the Rail Safety and Security Advisory Committee and the fact that he and other committee members had not heard about it showed how Prasa operated and its total lack of concern for commuter safety.
“My understanding is that the Rail Enforcement Unit was successful over the period of operation. I will raise the matter with the CEO of Prasa during their next meeting,” Mr Van Minnen said.
The current state of the rail environment, he added, had reached a stage of no return.
“It will be virtually impossible to get it back into a viable commuter service due to mismanagement, theft of funds via tender fraud and a lack of a security plan which includes security on and off the trains.”
Only partial train services from Cape Town via Retreat to Fish Hoek were available for the far south and now a limited service on the Cape Flats line, he said.
Ms Scott was unable to say when the line between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town would be operational.