Another horror journey for Shosholoza Meyl passengers

Adam Wakefield, News24

Johannesburg - Passengers on a Shosholoza Meyl train from East London got a lot more than they bargained for when they left the seaside town early on Sunday morning.

After the locomotive was replaced twice, with a bus journey thrown in too, they arrived in Johannesburg early on Tuesday morning - more than 22 hours later than scheduled. Prasa confirmed the incident.

Christina Mtshali, a passenger on the train, told News24 that as they were approaching Queenstown, the train came to a stop.

Five hours later, the locomotive was replaced, but then the replacement locomotive broke down. Alternative transport arrived some 17 hours later - long after the remaining food and water on the packed train had run out.

"They gave us a letter to give to our employers. That letter is all lies. They are saying it was a problem with the system, but it's not the truth."

This comes a week after News24 reported that a Shosholoza Meyl train was stranded in the Karoo for more than five hours due to cable theft.

"There were people that were sick, they needed medication. There were people going for interviews, going back to work. They need to care about people."

Mtshali said the attitude of staff was poor, describing those assigned to the train as "rude".

Prasa spokesperson Lesedi Mapheto confirmed the train's locomotive had to be replaced twice, and apologised on behalf of the company for what had happened.

"We expect our staff to be professional, show compassion, to understand... In this situation, they [passengers] might keep yelling at you, but the customer has the right to complain.

"Once we deliver a modern [train] system, the days of delays... will be gone," he said.

"When you deal with the customer, there is only one boss... who can fire everyone by simply spending their money somewhere else. We don't want that. We want the train to be the backbone of the public transport system."