By Aidan Jones and Nathan Geffen
If you travel on Metrorail’s Southern Line in November 2018 and compare it to two years ago, a few things strike you. First, most infuriating, is that trains are more irregular than they used to be. Second, the carriages, even the higher priced Metro Plus ones, have deteriorated to an even more parlous state. Barely a seat is still covered. Graffiti and advertising stickers plaster the sides.
What’s eery though is how relatively empty the carriages are during the morning rush hour at Retreat Station, one of Cape Town’s main hubs. You’re almost guaranteed to get a seat now, even though it may be torn and have no more stuffing. Far fewer people appear to be using this line, and commuters must be finding other more expensive but reliable ways to get to work.
Yet over the past half-decade Metrorail has spent, or squandered, billions of rands on supposedly improving trains infrastructure.
The leaked Werksmans Attorneys reports into mismanagement at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) have flagged irregularities in the agency’s dealings with infrastructure service providers. The firm has recommended that racketeering charges be considered.