By Lynne Gadd-Claxton
NELSON Mandela Bay residents who commute between Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth by train every day say the Metrorail service has reached an all-time low and they are being treated “like animals”, with little being done to upgrade rusted carriages or ensure their safety.
The commuters’ concerns about service delivery, safety and general maintenance have come in the wake of an announcement by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) – the state-owned operator of Metrorail – earlier this year that the R124-billion existing fleet would be supplemented with more than 7 000 new coaches in the next 20 years.
But Uitenhage resident Tandiray van Breda, who has been taking the train for 12 years, said she had seen no evidence that Metrorail was doing anything to remedy the current situation in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“The carriages are rusty and as soon as it rains they become wet with only a few spots left where I do not get rained on. Doors between the carriages do not close properly. Lighting is poor. Onsome days commuters travel in total darkness,” Van Breda said.
Another commuter, who asked not to be named, claimed the morning rush for the train had left her with an injured arm after a Prasa employee pushed her and she fell.
She subsequently lodged a complaint against Prasa.
The commuter said she was frustrated by the way Metrorail security treated passengers.
“I will not stand for the way they treat me and everyone else who takes the train. It is unacceptable. How can you treat people like animals?”
Metrorail Eastern Cape spokeswoman Mimi Katsio said the company wanted customers to feel free to voice their concerns. “We view this complaint seriously, as we respect our commuters,” Katsio said.
Prasa required staff to wear name tags making them identifiable, she said.
“The region has introduced a customer care department dedicated to dealing with customer complaints … Furthermore, we have a structure called United Commuter Voices which engages with commuters.”
Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana said R14.5-billion would be spent on the construction of depots for maintenance of new coaches and the upgrading infrastructure. An additional R25.9-billion would be allocated to improving and servicing the highest-density stations.
This is a version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday July 28 2012.