Solution to clear sand from tracks in the pipeline

The railway line between Fish Hoek and Simon's Town is often out of order due to sand covering the tracks.

Metrorail is in the process of procuring a permanent contractor, as a short-term solution, to clear sand off the tracks on the railway line between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town.

But this could be a lengthy process due to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) being a state-owned entity and procured contractors must be compliant with Treasury regulations and Prasa supply chain policy, said Metrorail spokeswoman, Riana Scott.

In the long-term she said, the redesign of the current wall will assist, but again, this will be subject to processes involving environmental impact assessments and heritage requirements.

Sand on the tracks between the Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town line has long been a thorn in the side for far south residents and visitors who are forced to make use of a bus service when the trains are not running.

In 2015, the line was closed by a directive of the Rail Safety Regulator when a section of the seawall caved in due to the pressure of the sand blown against it.

This angered commuters who took to social media, slamming the state of the lines and suggesting something be done before it was too late.

Ms Scott said services between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town had been sporadically suspended since 2016, depending on the severity of the wind.

The line is problematic due to its proximity to the sea, and the line is no stranger to the impact of spring and high tide and the buffeting of coastal winds.

During closures the train service is replaced by a bus shuttle operating between the four stations and Ms Scott said up to 500 commuters relied on the peak hour service between the two stations.

But for commuters, this is often of great inconvenience as the bus journey is impacted by traffic congestion and often results in commuters being late.

Chairman of the Rail Commuter Action Group (RCAG), Leslie van Minnen, agreed that this was a long-standing problem and said it was not only sand on the lines that was an issue but that the rail lines had also been undermined by wind and sea action at Glencairn which made them unsafe to use.

He added that the lines were not up to the required standard, thus forcing trains to run at 12 to 20 kilometres per hour when they do run and the critical state of Prasa/Metrorail and the lack of communication between them and the RCAG is forcing the RCAG once again to consider approaching the courts for relief on behalf of commuters.

He said sand had been covering the lines since the lines were put in over a 100 years ago, yet they’ve always operated.

“Why not now?” he asked.