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Train ticket hikes drive commuters off the rails

Jun 12 2015 17:42
Tammy Petersen, News24

Cape Town - Commuters feel Metrorail's higher ticket prices should be accompanied by better service.

In the Western Cape, single tickets will increase between 50c and R1, weekly tickets between R1 and R2 and monthly tickets between R2 and R38 depending on travel zone and class, the parastatal said in a statement.

Regional manager Richard Walker said the increase, effective July 1, was unavoidable.

“The cost of operating the current service has burgeoned. Major cost drivers like electricity and safety-critical components have increased far beyond the rate of inflation,” he said.

Assets “well beyond design life”, outdated technology and an extensive open system susceptible to vandalism, land invasion, service protests and vagrancy all contributed to Metrorail’s maintenance burden.

The fare increase levied was “sensitive to prevailing social-economic factors in the region and ensures rail, as the backbone of the region’s public transport system, remains the most affordable mode of public transport”.

“The increase will only add 6.5% additional revenue to the region’s coffers. The balance of the operational cost would be funded through further internal efficiencies and cost savings.”

Commuters speak out

However, some commuters insist the quality of service does not justify the increase.

“They must start paying us customers for pathetic service,” said Denise Maarman, who had been commuting to and from work by train for 23 years.

She could not afford alternative modes of public transport.

“It should take me 20 minutes to get to work by train, but I leave home three hours early because Metrorail runs on its own time.

“There are only so many times you can blame transport for being late. I get paid per hour, so the later I am, the thinner my pay packet. Hulle moet hulle skaam om nog ekstra vir vrot diens te vra [They should be ashamed to charge extra for bad service].” 

David Abrahams, who travels by train for most of the week, said he would cough up the extra cash if safety was prioritised.

“Your life is in danger when you put your foot in the carriage,” he said.

“Earlier this year I witnessed a man being robbed and stabbed when I took an off-peak train home. All we could do was watch. Where was the security we hear so much about? Nowhere to be found.”

While he travels to work by car if his pocket allows, Abrahams concedes the train is the most economical mode of transport.

“But considering out of every 10 trips I take, I end up being late half of the time, is there really a benefit? I would rather face traffic and a tighter budget than that annoying voice telling me the service is running late again.”

Ilse Norton, whose two daughters used to travel via the Cape Flats line to a Cape Town school, said she was forced to find a school taxi for her children as train troubles affected their schoolwork.

“Sometimes my girls only got to class at 9am, over an hour after the bell has rung,” she said.

Norton insisted arriving late during exam time was especially stressful for her children, who are in Matric and Grade 9.

“It’s expensive, but 10 times more reliable than Metrorail,” she said.

metrorail  |  transport
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