Commuters have been less and less affected by train fires since the City of Cape Town, along with the provincial government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), introduced the Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) in an effort to ensure passenger safety on Metrorail trains in Cape Town.

The fires began as early as August of 2016, when two trains were set alight at Retreat Station. Many have theorised that ‘sinister motives’ were behind the fires, and the Western Cape Government offered a whopping R100 000 reward for any information that would lead to the successful arrest of the supposed arsonists.

A single train fire in July 2018 that damaged 11 carriages caused up to R30-million in damages. Over a five-year period, fires on trains have caused at least R210-million in damages.

The REU was launched in October 2018 by the National Minister of Transport and is jointly funded by the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and PRASA.

It added 100 law enforcement officers to the existing security personnel to address Metrorail’s security challenges.

A joint statement by Metrorail, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government has revealed that two offenders were arrested in the past week by the REU. A further four suspects were detained by PRASA Protection Services, as well as SAPS Rapid Rail Response Unit and private security contractors.

“Two successful prosecutions were recorded over the past this week. In the first case, a convicted thief was imprisoned for 12 months and he also received a five-year suspended sentence. In the second case, the offender was imprisoned for three years,” the statement reads. “The REU arrested two suspects for possession of suspected stolen property and malicious damage to property in Ravensmead and Bishop Lavis. Furthermore, 751 stop-and-searches were conducted, and fines to the value of R92 300 were issued.”

PRASA Protection Services also remove vagrants from the rail operating precincts on a rotational weekly basis, and 61 vagrants and 29 illegal structures have been removed between Salt River and Observatory in the past week.

REU successes over the past week include:

– 751 trains were patrolled

– 34 implements were confiscated for being used in cable theft

– 341 searches were conducted

– R92 300 was handed out in fines

– 37 court appearances and convictions took place.

“Aspirant cable thieves and vandals should take note of our regular arrests and successful convictions as well as the suspended sentences imposed. Theft and vandalism in the rail environment are becoming increasingly less attractive options. Every success is incentive for our teams to do more, better,” said Metrorail Western Cape Regional Manager Richard Walker.

“As more criminal hotspots are being targeted and criminals apprehended, it is becoming harder and harder for crime to thrive within the rail network. Our collective efforts, through the Rail Enforcement Unit and other Metrorail security efforts, are making a noticeable difference in restoring law and order in the network, and ridding it of crime. Our approach is guided by strategy and information from previous operations, as well as the assistance from the general public. We must work together in addressing this very pressing matter. There is still a lot of work to do, but we are confident that the work already being done is a step in the right direction,” Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works and Chairperson of the Rail Management Task Team, added.

The public can assist the REU by reporting crime and vandalism, as these reports form part of the intelligence that drives deployment and operations.

Illicit and suspicious activity may be reported to any number listed below:

Metrorail Protection Services hot-line

021 449 4336/5056

Rapid Rail Police Unit (RRPU) Cape Town 

021 443 4325

RRPU Bellville

021 941 6800

RRPU Philippi/Stock Road

021 370 1011

RRPU Retreat

021 710 5129

RRPU Radio Control/OPS room

021 449 4309/10

SAPS Crime Stop

0860 10111

Crime Line

SMS 32211

City of Cape Town Metals Theft Unit

0800 222 2771

Rewards of up to R25 000 are payable for information leading to a successful conviction.

Picture: Metrorail Cape Town/Facebook

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.