Today about 150 000 commuters will be affected again after Metrorail decided to suspend operations on the Central Line following the torching of a train.
On Tuesday, Metrorail halted service on the line following protest action in Langa earlier that day, as well as the burning of a train between Bellville and Tyger Valley Station that evening.
Protesters had placed concrete slabs on railway lines near Langa station, damaging apparatus cases, track boxes and signals.
At 8pm, a train leaving Bellville Station for Cape Town was torched by vandals who also allegedly threatened to kill the driver, 57-year-old Derrick Louw.
Yesterday , Metrorail’s spokesperson, Riana Scott confirmed service to Khayelitsha/Kapteinsklip/Sarepta [Bishop Lavis] would remain suspended until further notice.
“This decision follows extensive damage suffered [Tuesday] during the height of the Langa service protests,” she says.
She says technicians needed time to assess the full extent of the damage and do repairs before they can go back to partial or full service.
Metrorail Regional manager Richard Walker says they have reached the point of no return after nearly 12 months of being under attack.
“We cannot afford to lose anymore rail infrastructure or carriages. Soon we will have to make the difficult decision – can we continue to operate train services safely given the extent to which critical infrastructure remains targeted?” he says.
The United National Transport Union (UNTU) says the arson attack left their driver traumatised as he had to hide in bushes following threats on his life.
Louw had just boarded the train when he was attacked and his coach set alight with him in it.
Spokesperson Sonja Cartens says: “This is a great concern for us, we have been trying our best to ensure the safety of our members since the death of [fatally shot driver] Pieter Botha and we have tried to get Prasa [Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa] and Department of Transport to realise how serious this is.”
“We have instructed our legal team to get a court order to force Prasa to ensure the safety of our drivers and commuters.”
Yesterday 40 people who were arrested in Langa on charges of public violence and intimidation appeared at the Bishop Lavis Magistrates’ Court.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman, Eric Ntabazalila, says bail was set at R300 and the matter postponed to October 11.