End of line for Rail Enforcement Unit contract

A train on the Fish Hoek to Muizenberg line.

A railway-safety activist has
slammed a decision by the
Passenger Rail Agency of
South Africa to pull the plug on a
unit that helped to protect commuters on crime-plagued trains. 

The Rail Enforcement Unit
(REU) was introduced as a
pilot project in October 2018
and started off with a 100 officers
that were recruited and trained as
peace officers by the City of Cape
Town. 
The project was a joint operation
by the City, Prasa and the provincial
government.
Felicity Purchase, mayoral committee member for transport, said
the agreement had come to an end
on June 30. 
The unit had searched
37 000 individuals during stop-and-search operations, conducted more
than 4 000 patrols in hot spots and
arrested 424 suspects, she said.
It had also recovered more than
2 000 metres of stolen copper and
aluminium cables between July last
year and June this year. 
“I believe the REU has made an
impact, and we will continue liaising
with Prasa and the other stakeholders regarding the possibility of reviving the unit or alternative solutions
in future.” 
Some of the officers had joined
the City’s rural safety unit while the
rest would be considered for future
enforcement projects, she said. 
Metrorail spokeswoman Riana
Scott said the REU had only been
meant to run for a year but there
had been funds left over at the end
of that period, so it had continued
its work until they’d been exhausted. 
Prasa had now adopted a security strategy of in-house protection
and technology and would make an
announcement soon, she said. 
Leslie van Minnen, the chairman of the Rail Commuters Action
Group, said he was shocked to hear
the contract had not been renewed. 
He said he was a member of the
Rail Safety and Security Advisory
Committee and the fact that he and
other committee members had not
heard about it showed how Prasa
operated and its total lack of concern for commuter safety. 
“My understanding is that the
Rail Enforcement Unit was successful over the period of operation. I
will raise the matter with the CEO
of Prasa during their next meeting,”
Mr Van Minnen said. 
The current state of the rail
environment, he added, had
reached a stage of no return. 
“It will be virtually impossible to
get it back into a viable commuter
service due to mismanagement,
theft of funds via tender fraud and
a lack of a security plan which
includes security on and off the
trains.” 
Only partial train services from
Cape Town via Retreat to Fish Hoek
were available for the far south and
now a limited service on the Cape
Flats line, he said.
Ms Scott was unable to say when
the line between Fish Hoek and
Simon’s Town would be operational.