Trains on fire again

Another train is set alight at Cape Town station.

Another fire at Cape Town station, on Saturday July 28, left three carriages destroyed, and platforms 13 and 14 out of commission.

Fire and rescue services spokesman, Theo Layne, said 19 firefighters, three fire engines and a water tanker were on the scene on Saturday. No injuries were reported.

Metrorail said the damaged train was towed away to a depot where the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) will determine the exact extent and cost of the damage.

Technical crews determined that the rail tracks, sleepers and other equipment below the burnt carriages were safe.

Electrical crews have started repairing the overhead electrical signal cables.

The latest incident was the sixth recorded this year; bringing the total number of carriages lost to the Western Cape train fleet since May 2015 to 149. The cost of the previous two incidents collectively is about R51 million.

On Saturday July 21, 11 carriages were destroyed in a fire at Cape Town Station, and platforms 15 and 16 were closed because of the damage (“Platforms inoperable after fire”, CapeTowner, July 26).

Several carriages were also destroyed when a fire broke out in Retreat station last week.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said commuters were reeling under the onslaught against the biggest and cheapest mode of public transport.

“Trains were once a punctual and reliable way of getting to work but incessant attacks on the system have left the region, the city and the province congested and unproductive.”

The DA provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela expressed concern about the safety of train commuters in Cape Town following the fire at Cape Town station.

“The ongoing attack on our trains is a serious threat to the safety of passengers and must be urgently addressed. Metrorail must ramp up their efforts and improve security measures to prevent any further fires on trains,” he said.

On Friday July 27, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande, Transport MEC Donald Grant and mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron inspected the damaged trains at the Paarden Eiland depot.

“The issue of train burnings has now been elevated to the highest transport sphere and the interventions agreed to will expedite the process of following up on leads and establishing the motive for the burnings,” said Mr Walker.

He encouraged communities to support the process by providing information to the police. “We cannot fight these fires without the assistance of civic-minded individuals and we invite them to continue their good work.”

A reward of up to R25 000 is payable for any information leading to a successful conviction.