Prasa plans to resume train operations on level 3
All Prasa services have been suspended since the start of lockdown. Daylin Mitchell, the DA’s provincial spokesperson on transport and public works, said while train operations were imperative for helping to kick-start the economy, “once again, Prasa must engage with the Western Cape government to ensure all work together for the safe commute of passengers”.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) plans to resume operations from level 3 of the lockdown. Metrorail confirmed as much on social media, saying “level 3 operations readiness underway”.
“We need a full understanding from Prasa as to the protocols in place for social distancing, good hygiene, and testing and screening for train staff. We cannot compromise the safety of commuters,” Mitchell said.
Joao Jardim from the national commuter group, The United Commuters Voice, added: “We were not contacted by Prasa, let alone consulted on their operational measures and planning.
“The devil is in the detail, which means that cash-strapped Metrorail will be using all their security detail and railway police to man every coach to ensure that the social distancing will work.”
Given the limited fleet of trains available to it, resuming operations would be “an almost impossible feat” for Prasa, Jardim added.
He likened Prasa and Metrorail’s plan to the launch of a modern-day Titanic.
He added: “Will the creators of this idea take full responsibility when the commuters are infected with novel coronavirus?”
Sonja Carstens, the spokesperson for the United National Transport Union, said it gave its approval of the resumption of rail operations to the National Economic Development and Labour Council via its affiliated federation, the Federation of Unions of South Africa.
Carstens said the unions highlighted several routes that should be opened immediately.
“The reason being was that trains are the cheapest mode of transport for commuters and that currently, people are starving out there,” she said.
“This coronavirus has a devastating impact on our economy, and on workers in general.
“Some workers need to go to work in the cheapest form (sic); even our members were facing retrenchments because Prasa has not been generating any income throughout the lockdown, and they have endured further vandalism (to trains).”
The unions also wanted to prevent the potential loss of 14 000 jobs due to the continued shutdown.
Prasa did not respond for comment on what measures it plans to implement to protect commuters and employees, or a detailed plan for resuming operations.
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