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A massive security operation was unveiled on Friday for Cape Town’s collapsing and crime-ridden railway system.

Steps agreed at a summit in Woodstock between the City of Cape Town‚ the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and the Western Cape government included:

– A 1‚500-strong security unit costing R45-million a year;

– Two bulletproof walls to seal off a 15km stretch of Cape Town’s central railway line‚ which has been closed since the start of the year due to security concerns; and

– Drones — to be deployed “‘within days”[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]— to monitor criminal activity on railways.

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for transport‚ Brett Herron‚ said:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“A lot still needs to happen but I think we have achieved our goal for the summit by agreeing on a plan of action that can be implemented as soon as possible.”

A lot still needs to happen but I think we have achieved our goal for the summit by agreeing on a plan of action that can be implemented as soon as possible

Brett Herron

The central railway line has been shut down since January 9 after the murder of a security guard in Khayelitsha‚ and on Thursday members of the United National Transport Union threatened to halt northern line trains after a ticket control officer was robbed.

Prasa acting CEO Mthuthuzeli Swartz said:[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“All of our efforts are focused on reinstating the central line service during the coming week. We will deploy drone technology within days which should assist us to monitor any criminal activity on the system.”

Herron said an agreement on the new security measures would be signed within the next few weeks.[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“The city is ready and willing to contribute R16 million to get this plan off the ground‚” he said.

“I asked the Transport and Urban Development Authority’s acting commissioner to reprioritise projects and to find the money somewhere in our budget‚ and he did.

“I am grateful that we have agreed on a starting point to address the safety and security issues to stabilise the urban rail service in the short term. A lot still needs to happen‚ but I think we have achieved our goal for the summit by agreeing on a plan of action that can be implemented as soon as possible.”

Swartz said Prasa would contribute R3-million a month to the city council for managing and deploying Metrorail security personnel. He said the council was “better equipped” than Metrorail to do this.

Metrorail will be use a new product developed by the Department of Environmental Affairs‚ made of alien vegetation‚ to build walls on either side of the rail reserve for 15km.

“The construction cost will amount to about R45-million. The wall will be constructed with alien plant biomass and is fire-resistant‚ bulletproof‚ strong‚ quick to build‚ and cheaper than other options considered to date‚” said Swartz.

“If we use the product … we can save R20-million. This is money we can contribute to implement the pilot security plan to improve the safety of rail commuters and to protect our rail infrastructure and assets.”

Metrorail Western Cape regional manager Richard Walker welcomed the addition of drone technology.[tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“Now that criminals can be successfully caught and convicted‚ we call on communities to increase their reporting of criminal activity in and around railway precincts‚” he said.

Transport MEC Donald Grant said the socio-economic and environmental benefit of a well-functioning rail service could not be overstated.

Now that criminals can be successfully caught and convicted‚ we call on communities to increase their reporting of criminal activity in and around railway precincts

Mthuthuzeli Swartz

“Rail has the potential to provide rapid access to social and economic opportunities for a broad cross-section of society‚ contributing to an efficient‚ competitive and inclusive city and helping to overcome some of the continuing spatial divides‚” he said.

“Now is the time for inter-governmental co-operation‚ in the spirit of the constitution‚ and for the private sector and all other stakeholders to work with government to improve the situation.”

Jon Williams‚ head of cities and urbanisation at PWC Africa‚ who attended the summit‚ said the poor state of railways and the spillover effect on traffic in Cape Town had social and economic impacts on business.

“Today’s discussion was a real reminder of the power of government to solve important problems when the different spheres come together to focus on an issue. I hope that today will mark the next chapter in Cape Town’s integrated transport journey in which we must all play a part‚” he said.

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