The United National Transport Union (UNTU) seriously doubts if the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will be ready to resume its limited train services tomorrow, 1 July 2020, due to the numerous reports of serious problems on the ground level that were reported to the leadership of the union today.

The issues that have been reported to UNTU indicated that Prasa did not have enough time after its COVID-19 readiness budget by the Department of Transport was approved last week, to attend to all the areas that have been neglected due to its cashflow constraints during the lockdown, says John Pereira, Acting General Secretary.

“Prasa planned on only resuming 15% of the normal capacity and to use marshals, whom will start their duties tomorrow, to assist the Prasa Protection services with crowd control. The South African Police Services (SAPS) promised to assist Prasa by allocating 40 police officials nationwide.

“In Durban UNTU members reported that their Prasa cell phones have once again been suspended to non-payment of the network services. This make it difficult for the Umlazi-Durban-Kwamashu route to resume as the lack of signals and the use of manual authorisations took two and half hours last week,” says Pereira.

According to UNTU members, they have run out of the required personal protective equipment (PPE’s). They were not issued with facial masks but were given a can of 5 litres of sanitizer to sanitise employees resuming their duties tomorrow and to sanitise commuters.

Several stations and platforms on the Umlazi route have not been cleaned for weeks after the contracts of the cleaning company was not renewed. There are some stations with no running water and at some stations the toilets are blocked and cannot be used, creating a health hazard for commuters and Prasa employees, UNTU members reported.

In Cape Town everything seems to resume services on the Southern Corridor, but train drivers report that there are little of them who can resume their duties. Because of the prolonged period they had to sit at home during the lockdown, the train drivers need to do refresher training on the route before they can start driving again and they need to undergo medical examinations. According to them, Prasa failed to pay the bill of the medical practitioners.

The train control office (TCO) who authorises the drivers in the Western Cape, were closed today after (2) two COVID-19 positive case were reported. The TCO offices have been sanitized and is scheduled to reopen tomorrow morning at 06:00.

On the Pretoria-Pienaarspoort route all seems good to go. This morning Prasa was still trying to locate more diesel locomotives and preferred spare parts to do the much-needed maintenance, after the overhead cables on this route were under siege and being sabotaged after the announcement that services will resume on 1 July 2020.

“It is crucial for the South African economy that Prasa resume as many as possible of its passenger train services as they provide the cheapest form of transport to millions of workers. UNTU calls on all commuters and communities to assist with the fight against vandalism and theft of Prasa infrastructure and to report any incidents.

“Prasa belongs to all the South African taxpayers whom fund it. It is a vital asset that we as South African’s need to protect for generations to come,” says Pereira.

Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary: Media, Liaison and Communication. For UNTU press releases phone Sonja on 082 463 6806

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