CAPE TOWN, October 29 – A much-anticipated Rail Enforcement Unit was launched during a ceremony on Cape Town railway station on Monday morning, with the hope of securing the safety of passengers and critical infrastructure on the city’s beleaguered rail network.
The establishment of the unit follows the memorandum of agreement between the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) which operates the Metrorail system.
City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, Brett Herron, said: “Up to 100 officers have undergone extensive training over the past few months. They are now ready to be deployed to assist the existing security services with the challenges that our urban rail service is facing.”
The City said the formation of this unit is a demonstration of the “collaborative spirit between the different spheres of government” and also the commitment from all of those that are involved to ensure that the project is a success.
“The pilot project is to run for a period of at least 12 months,” Herron said
“Passenger rail is the most efficient and affordable form of public transport. Here in Cape Town, hundreds of thousands of low-income residents rely on the trains to get to work and school.
“It is our duty and responsibility to ensure commuters’ safety; and secondly, we must do all we can to protect and stabilise the service. Public transport must enable commuters to get to work, on time, and to do so without being concerned about their safety.
“The formation of this unit demonstrates the commitment and collaborative spirit between the different spheres of government to tackle these issues head-on. I want to thank our partners for their leadership, support, and dedication over the past few months of seeing this pilot project through.”
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith said: “This initiative is indicative of how serious we are about commuter safety, as well as our commitment to returning stability to the rail network.
However, no initiative is complete without the buy-in and assistance of the public. We, therefore, call on rail commuters and the public at large to do their bit by reporting criminal acts and sharing intelligence to help bring those responsible for the ongoing acts of destruction and sabotage to book.”
The unit will not only be focussing on the safety of commuters but also on the vandalism of trains and the theft of crucial Metrorail infrastructure and assets.
Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant said: “Improving security in the rail network and strengthening Metrorail’s ability to provide a safe and reliable service is an urgent priority that demands the cooperation of all state actors.
“The future economic success of this region depends heavily on a stable and sustainable rail network. Having visited the officers while they were on training last month, I believe that the work that we have put into this pilot project to increase Metrorail’s security contingent is a necessary step towards improving passenger rail functionality and effectiveness.
“It is also a very important example of intergovernmental cooperation in the interest of society. Improving security will go a long way in restoring commuter faith in the service.”
According to a joint statement by the City, Western Cape Provincial Government and Prasa, from a Western Cape Government point of view, the socio-economic and environmental benefit of a well-functioning rail service cannot be overstated.
The Western Cape Regional Manager Richard Walker thanked MEC Donald Grant and Councillor Herron for their commitment and support with the initiative.
“The unit will act as a force multiplier and reinforces our call for all law enforcement agencies to fight crime in the rail system together. We now have our own Protection Services, the Rapid Rail Response Unit and the Rail Enforcement Unit working in coordination with the South African Police Services’ Provincial Joint Operations Command Centre,” Walker said.
The unit is to assist the existing security services.
– African News Agency (ANA)