The deployment of a special railway policing unit has been delayed by a month as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has failed to provide its co-funding contribution.
This has put a delay on the training process of the 100 new railway police that will be patrolling at Metrorail stations – at this point, only 70 officers have completed their training. Instead of being deployed at the end of September, the railway police will now be deployed at the beginning of November.
It appears that the rail agency has reaffirmed its commitment to making up the R16-million needed to bring its end of the bargain in its partnership with the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town after harsh criticism from Mayco member, Brett Herron.
“Despite Prasa’s obligation‚ as confirmed by the Constitutional Court‚ to ensure a safe public transport service and all of our efforts to assist them to honour this obligation‚ we are still awaiting Prasa’s contribution of R16m,” Herron said. “We have sent several urgent reminders to the Prasa executive to fulfill their duties and to honour their commitment.”
“The CEO of Prasa flew down after I criticised them on the weekend and met with my officials and the Western Cape government officials, and agreed they would now pay up,” Herron added. “We had wanted the unit to be in place by October. The province paid and we found the funding for our portion, but we haven’t been able to fully implement the recruitment because Prasa hadn’t paid its portion. We have issued a joint statement by the three of us that they have now committed to paying and the project should get back on track.”
Although only 70 of the railway police are trained, Herron is of the opinion if the police are deployed intelligently, it will already make a big difference in visibility.
“It’s a small unit of only 100 officers, but if we deploy it intelligently it can make a visible difference and then we have a basis for expanding it. The way things are carrying on now the rail system is collapsing before our eyes,” Herron said. “Prasa lost 2.7 million trips the last financial year compared to the previous one. We are now experiencing a four-hour peak period in the morning and in the evening because the rail system is not functioning.”
On Sunday, Herron said that the City of Cape Town had requested that the Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, declare the city’s rail services a state of emergency.
“We need extra policing resources on the rail system, so it really was a case of seeking a rapid response to turn this around and the state of emergency or disaster, whichever is the most appropriate, should enable the Treasury to divert funds to make this happen,” Herron said. “It’s a national competency. So between the province and I, we have been stepping way out of our mandate, but we are asking national government to join us and find a solution. They have the mandate and executive authority to implement the turnaround strategy. We need at least 88 train sets. A few years ago we were aiming at a 110 train sets to operate on this rail network and we are down to below 40.”
Picture: City of Cape Town