Metrorail train fires have left many feeling hopeless – a total of seven trains have been razed this year. To put the public at ease, 100 new railway police are being hired to keep a watchful eye over the crime around the railway system.
A budget of R16-million has been put aside for the pilot project, and was approved on Wednesday. The new railway police will begin duty by the end of September.
Speaking on CapeTalk, Mayco member for Transport, Brett Herron, said that the Mayco, Prasa and provincial government have agreed to established a dedicated unit within the City’s policing structures to operate on the rail infrastructure as a pilot project.
“Each of us, Prasa, province and the city would pay a third of that and so what happened today was that the mayoral committee approved the appointment of the 100 officers and they should be on the ground hopefully by the end of September,” Herron said.
Civil society group, #UniteBehind, wrote a letter addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa and national government, requesting that unified action between authorities be imposed to find the culprits behind the train fires.
The letter expressed that the group believes that the fires have been orchestrated to cripple the Mother City’s public transport system.
“These are not random acts of violence, but a concerted effort against Cape Town’s public transport system, and by extension, our economy. Our city and around half a million rail commuters are under attack,” the letter read.
Matthew Hirsch, spokesperson of #UniteBehind, said that the most recent rain fires appear to micmic and coincide with internal leadership battles at Metrorail.
“We don’t believe that these are just frustrated commuters setting carriages alight. There is a more sinister element behind these attacks,” he said.
Speaking to News24, Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said that it is still too early to speculate on the reasons behind the attacks.
“We need to lobby to change legislation, so these incidents can be reported as arson. It’s not just a challenge for us, but for SAPS as well, who also have challenges with prioritising policing certain areas,” he said.
He also said that because train fires are classified as malicious damage to property instead of arson, the consequences for perpetrators are not as severe.