BACK ON TRACK?
Cape Town commuters ‘thankful’ for trains from Nyanga as more corridors opened on Central Line
‘We’re thankful for the trains that are now working,’ said Margaret Gelderbloem, a Cape Town commuter who can now travel by train on the Central Line, which saves her money.
‘I used to pay R18 for a taxi; now I pay R8 for a train, now I can take that money to buy bread,” said Margaret Gelderbloem at Nyanga train station on Tuesday. She caught the first train out of Nyanga in more than three years after the train line reopened after months of repair work.
On Tuesday, the train departed from Nyanga on Cape Town’s Central Line which had been subjected to vandalism and theft of infrastructure pre-Covid, which worsened during the lockdown.
Gelderbloem, from Manenberg, waited for the 6.30am train that would take her to her job at a factory in Salt River. She and three friends caught the first train since November 2019 to depart from Nyanga Station. She hoped that in future there would be “a lot of security” on trains.
Gelderbloem watched Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga board the train with several police and law enforcement officials. Chikunga was accompanied by officials from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and government officials Ricardo Mackenzie, the Western Cape MEC for mobility, and Roberto Quintas, the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for urban mobility.
The train did not stop at Heideveld or Bonteheuwel stations as they were still being rehabilitated.
Chikunga and the group stopped at Langa, where questions about the costs of the rehabilitation were answered by the minister and Prasa CEO Hishaam Emeran. Emeran said plans over the next months included improving travel times and bringing back more stations, including Heideveld and Bonteheuwel on the line to Nyanga.
Thus far, “Prasa has invested R600-million to recover the line from Langa to Pinelands, Langa to Bellville via UWC [University of the Western Cape]” and now the line between Nyanga and Langa. The money had been mainly spent on electrical infrastructure and perway/rail track repairs.
“There will be an increased [security] presence on the trains on this corridor,” as well as more security presence at stations, Emeran confirmed.
Support from within and outside Prasa
After the train journey, there was an official launch of the reopened line at Cape Town station.
During her speech, Chikunga said: “The Central Line is a strategic corridor that moves a significant number of people and its recovery will ensure that those who rely on commuter rail for their livelihoods will once again be able to access this affordable mode of transport.”
She said she was pleased with the investment in the recovery of the line paying dividends, with 922 job opportunities created with 475 people under the age of 35 employed and 22 local small, macro, and medium enterprises hired in the process.
Raymond Maseko, Prasa’s Western Cape regional manager, said that in the process of trying to recover the line, gun-wielding extortionists attempted to interfere with the work.
“As Prasa, we couldn’t really go back to the site,” said Maseko. Following involvement from Prasa, the City of Cape Town and the police, a safety plan was put in place so that work could continue. Eventually, the work was completed.
“This is not the end of it,” said Maseko as he asked for support from Prasa workers to get the trains running again to Philippi, Kapteinsklip (Mitchells Plain) and Chris Hani (Khayelitsha) stations.
Former Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had said the line would be completed by the end of the year, but Chikunga said the department was determined to “ensure that this work is completed by the end of this financial year”. DM