Koketso Moeti
Koketso Moeti

Government must get Metrorail back on track

Many of the comments left on my previous post about the disaster that is Metrorail suggested that privatising the service would be a better option. But this ignores the exploitation of customers by the private sector as indicated by the bread price-fixing scandal and the recent exposure of the construction cartels. Privatising is no solution, particularly with the existence of the “business class express” also operated by Metrorail (now the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa but still a state-owned enterprise).

According to an advertorial the service, launched in 2010, boasts:

A free bus shuttle service;

Free refreshments on-board;

Laptop workstations with power points and Wi-Fi internet access;

Grade C security on-board;

Free newspaper and

Exclusive waiting and ticketing areas at stopping stations.

The existence of this service indicates that Metrorail is indeed capable of rendering a much better service than it currently does to the majority of its users — the black working class. The very same class that cannot afford the business express service, which at its launch cost double the ordinary Metrorail ticket.

For the black working class the experience of April 8 2013 continues to be the norm. On the day mentioned the 17h15 train to Pretoria was cancelled. Despite informing commuters about this no reason was provided for the cancellation. At 17h40 commuters were informed that the train was stuck in Cleveland. The train eventually arrived at platform 11, with no lights and with those getting off the train complaining about it getting stuck frequently. A second train arrived at platform 12, also heading to Pretoria. Because its lights were on some chose to use it instead as it seemed less risky. For a female travelling alone a dark train can mean getting groped and not being able to identify the perpetrator.

On one end of the spectrum we have customers who are offered a free shuttle service, yet when trains get stuck or are late causing “ordinary” commuters to miss their next train, no free transportation is offered. Some commuters are forced to beg for money at stations because they are unable to afford the taxi fare. Others, some elderly, are forced to walk a long distance from the train station to wherever they catch their taxis. People are forced to brave the dangers that come with being out that time of the evening, this leaves women particularly vulnerable in certain areas.

I have no interest in free newspapers, free refreshments, free Wi-Fi and a laptop workstation. What I, like many others, want is a reliable form of transport that gets us to work, school and wherever else we’re going to on time. I demand that we are told timeously that a train is delayed. I want to wait comfortably for the train and not worry about my safety.

Over and above that I would like a service that treats people with the dignity inherent in every human being — the dignity enshrined in the Constitution.

Many a time the South African government has identified inequality as one of our most pressing problems and committed itself to putting an end to it. Unfortunately the actions of the government have consistently shown a lack of commitment in achieving this, as proved by the level of inequality in the provision of transport services. This has a direct impact on people’s ability to become economically active citizens.

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