A tight squeeze

Crowds of people exit the platform through open gates during peak hour.

The Cape Town Railway station came under fire again, this time for “herding people like sheep” through only two entry and exit terminals.

A concerned commuter told the CapeTowner that for several months now, there were only two entry points to the platforms where people need to pass through to board the trains.

Edith Andrews, who works in the Cape Town city centre, said crowds of people need to exit the platforms while others need to enter the area and this causes frustration because people miss their trains, and it is also a security risk as the “tight squeeze gives criminals the perfect opportunity to rob or pickpocket people”.

“It is now months down the line, and we are being herded like sheep at one entrance at platform one and another further down at another platform gate.

“People trying to enter the platform area either have to wait or push through while hundreds of people are trying to exit.”

The Cape Town station has been in the spotlight recently after the United National Transport Union (UNTU) questioned the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) about security measures at the station after a fight broke out on a platform, and a security guard stabbed (“Fight puts spotlight on safety at station”, CapeTowner, August 18).

The CapeTowner visited Cape Town railway station during the morning peak, where there were at least 17 terminals out of order.

Crowds of commuters who alighted from the trains exited through three operational gates at platform 21, while others waited to enter at the gates. Three gates at platform one were operational.

Ms Andrews said: “It is a most unpleasant experience, and I think that because nobody knows whom to complain to, Metrorail is just merrily leaving things the way it is. We are not animals and have valid tickets.”

The CapeTowner raised the concerns with Metrorail but despite detailed questions about the operation of the station and why there were only two operational platform gates, the spokeswoman for Metrorail, Riana Scott responded by saying:

“The station manager has a shortage of staff, hence only a few gates can be operational at any one time. He is in the process of sourcing assistance and will deploy these as soon as practical.”

The CapeTowner requested to speak to the station manager, but Ms Scott said: “I am mandated to respond and unfortunately appointment/re-assignment of employees has to follow due process.”

The spokeswoman for Prasa, Daphne Kayster, did not comment, and referred the CapeTowner to Metrorail instead.

The general secretary of the UNTU, Eddie de Klerk, said the union has been trying to put pressure on Metrorail to “get themselves in order.”

“We went to the minister of transport, Dipuo Peters, to raise our concerns. Management seems to fail at Metrorail, and we are trying to engage with the relevant stakeholders to try to bring our concerns to their attention.”

He said the Minister of Transport’s office seems to share UNTU’s concern, but Prasa’s board remained mum about measures they will put in place to upgrade their service and address the many issues, which range from security to operations.

He said that because of the lack of response from Prasa’s board, their hands are tied to an extent, but assured commuters that they are doing their best to engage with the management and the minister’s office.