Cape Town Mayor, Dan Plato on Wednesday said the Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) -- which provides an additional 100 law enforcement officers to the existing security personnel in meeting Metrorail’s security challenges -- has been a success story and will assist in stabilising the urban rail service over the next few months.
“The people of Cape Town deserve a safe and reliable public transport system. Rail should be commuters’ mode of choice because commuting by rail is more affordable, and it’s the most efficient mode of transport when operating optimally,” said Plato.
“The REU’s successes to date give me a good reason to believe that this unit will assist us in stabilising the urban rail service over the next few months. With less crime and vandalism, we can expect a decrease in delays and cancellations, and with that, we can expect more commuters opting for trains as opposed to road-based transport,” he added.
REU was launched by the national minister of transport in October last year, coinciding with transport month. The unit is jointly funded by the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
The unit has recorded about 36 arrests on a range of charges including assault, possession of drugs and stolen property, malicious damage to property and theft, confiscations of 379,5 metres of cable and 800 kilograms of railway signal cable, among other successes, according to the Western Cape transport and public works.
The REU has been a force multiplier for Prasa’s Regional Protection Services Unit. Together, the teams have ensured greater operational visibility on trains and stations, searching more individuals during joint operations, confiscating a greater number of dangerous weapons and fraudulent train tickets.
“With enforcement success on track, the next priority should be closing down non-compliant scrap dealers and lobbying for legislative changes to permit only traceable electronic payment methods. The current practice of cash-for-copper, no-questions-asked encourages illegal and illicit scrap dealing,” said Metrorail Western Cape regional manager, Richard Walker.
Western Cape member of the executive council (MEC) for transport and public works and chairperson of the Rail Management Task Team, Donald Grant said that they launched the initiative with the intention to increase security on the rail network as the situation had reached dire straits with arson, vandalism, cable theft, and violent crime becoming commonplace.
"An intervention was urgently required, and through effective intergovernmental cooperation we were able to get the REU off the ground,” he said.
“The initial results and arrests are testaments to the initiative’s effectiveness and our officers’ commitment on the ground. Our Rail Management Task Team is continuing to explore ways in which to dramatically improve rail for the thousands of commuters who rely on this mode of transport.”