The Central line, the city’s busiest railway line, will remain closed indefinitely following damage to the Bonteheuwel sub-station, signalling a long wait for commuters as Metrorail says it will take months to repair the damage.
Metrorail spokesperson, Riana Scott, said the damage done to the Bonteheuwel sub-station three weeks ago is extensive.
“An inspection of the Central line, between the city centre and Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, had revealed extensive damage to the tracks, an electrical relay room and other infrastructure,” said Ms Scott.
She said repairs would require additional equipment, which would have to be brought in from elsewhere. Ms Scott added that it is as yet too early to determine the cost of the damage in total.
The Central line has been closed since Tuesday January 8, when a guard was killed during an armed robbery at Chris Hani station. Subsequent rampant vandalism delayed the resumption of the service.
As things stand now, no trains will run on Cape Town’s busiest commuter line for the better part of the year. Making matters worse is that Metrorail has no buses to assist.
Commuters are requested not to buy train tickets and make alternative arrangements until the service is able to resume.
“Metrorail confirms that while the Central service is suspended, stations are closed on the Bishop Lavis, Chris Hani, and Kapteinsklip routes. No tickets will be sold whatsoever and commuters are requested to use their cash to find alternative modes of transport. Golden Arrow Bus’ off-peak bus concession ended on Wednesday January 31, and rail commuters opting for continued use of buses should buy bus tickets,” Ms Scott said.
She said while the work continues communities adjacent to the railway lines are advised that the overhead electricity remains live as technicians are working on the line.
“The public is reminded that continuous work is happening on the lines and electricity should be considered live at all times. Traction power is 11kv and 50 times more potent than domestic electricity.
“Any interference with the system can lead to electrocution,” she warned.
Metrorail regional manager, Richard Walker, said the net is closing on criminals.
“Scores of tip-offs reach our offices and we follow up on each one – most yield positive results,” he said.
Mr Walker said a multi-functional team comprising engineering/technical, train operations and safety and security personnel is working around the clock to ensure that all the components of the suspended Central line’s service recovery plan is implemented as soon as safely possible.
He added that until further notice, stations on the Central line remain closed with no tickets being sold.
He encouraged the public to keep reporting suspected criminal activity to the police. He said full anonymity of the information sources are guaranteed and a reward of up to R25 000 is payable for any information leading to a successful conviction.
Until such time as service on the Central line is restored, commuters, many of whom earn little, will have to dig deep into their pockets. Mcebisi Holani from Lower Crossroads said he was worried that the Central line trains are out of service. He said he had to pay R547 monthly for a bus ticket – something he was not used to.
“The train is the cheapest mode of transport for those of us who have no stable job. This is frustrating. I do not think I will survive this,” he said.
Sabelo Nomama from Langa said he has to walk to work in Pinelands.
“I am walking to work every day now. I walk to and from. While I am getting used to it now, it is taxing. It is not an easy journey,” he said.