A fire that engulfed 11 train carriages at Cape Town station, on Saturday July 21, has caused an estimated R30-million in damages – according to Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Officials are still trying to established the cause of the fire that set Cape Town station ablaze. “While the reasons behind the fire are still sketchy, it is reported that one train arrived at the station, at platform 15, with one of the coaches already on fire,” Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said.

He said that confilicting reports suggest that the train was set alight when a passenger got off the train once it had already arrived at the station.

Zenani said the fire had caused senseless destruction which damaged seven coaches, as well as two motor coaches and five trailers were also completely destroyed. “The estimated cost of the damaged coaches is approximately R30m.”

Chairperson of Prasa Board of Control, Khanyisile Kweyama, said that while the board did not want to “speculate” over the cause, the agency was “seriously concerned about what appears to be a pattern of train fires in the Western Cape”.

Following the incident, the United National Transport Union (UNTU) has called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to create a task team to investigate the arson attacks on trains in Cape Town – concerned that Saturday’s incident was one of criminal nature.

“This is the fifth time train coaches belonging to Prasa in the Western Cape have been torched while it was approaching stations in recent months,” UNTU general secretary Steve Harris told News 24 – adding that each case had similar traits.

The incident was originally reported by three teenagers who saw the flames and notified security.

The Group CEO of Prasa, Sibusiso Sithole, said, “We have already been considering deploying the new trains to Cape Town to bolster the aging fleet. Cape Town is a very important Region for Prasa because of the high rail commuter take up when compared to the rest of the four regions, but we are now seriously concerned whether it will be wise to send our new trains down there when the situation is still this volatile.’

“I will be sending a high level team down to Cape Town to assess the situation and hopefully get to the bottom of what is really happening there.”

Picture: Prasa Group Communications.

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