Overcrowding, a lack of security and an aging rail infrastructure have created an untenable situation for train commuters across South Africa. Violent assaults are everyday occurrences, and cable theft and vandalism have become the norm.
Despite assurances from Metrorail, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS), security on trains is virtually non-existent. To exacerbate the situation, there’s insufficient visible policing at stations.
Factor in an obvious lack of ticket validation services, and it’s a free-for-all on a public transport service that’s responsible for ferrying millions of South Africans to and from work.
A spike in train-related crime
According to news agency, GroundUp, 394 incidents of crime were reported on trains in 2015. More recent statistics are hard to come by, but the general consensus is there’s been a marked increase in train-related crime over the past 12 to 18 months.
Also worrying is a noticeable spike in contact crime, with incidents becoming more aggressive and confrontational. Gangs of criminals, armed with guns, knives and crowbars, are boarding trains at one station, moving from carriage to carriage to steal watches, handbags and digital devices from passengers, and disembarking at the next.
Too often, Metrorail security and police appear to be missing, especially on lines and stations servicing poorer areas of our cities.
To complicate matters, long delays in the Metrorail rail service are playing havoc with commuters’ job security and private lives – and vulnerable community members are increasingly having to travel after dark.
Economic effects of train disruption and poor security
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that millions of productive hours are lost each month as a result of disruption to train services – a situation that South Africa can ill afford.
It’s not only lost working hours that are a concern. According to a Metrorail spokesperson, disgruntled commuters are showing their dissatisfaction through acts of arson and vandalism, at an incidence rate of 47 per month. Add frequent acts of cable theft to the mix, and train services really are in trouble.
What authorities are doing to safeguard commuters
Authorities claim they’re doing their bit to protect rail commuters. Private security guards and the Rapid Rail Police Unit have been deployed on trains and at “hotspot” stations, and Metrorail has installed CCTV surveillance at 16 stations in the Cape. The rail operator is also in the process of piloting surveillance on the central line between Bonteheuwel and Netreg stations.
For now, it’s not clear whether these measures will be enough to significantly improve safety and security for rail passengers.
What if you’re injured on a train or at a station?
Rail service providers like PRASA and Metrorail are legally required to take reasonable measures to protect the safety of passengers, on both trains and stations.
If you or a dependant has been injured or a family member has been killed as a result of negligence on the part of a rail services operator, you may have a legitimate claim against the operator.
For example, you may be entitled to make a claim if you:
- are personally injured in a train accident
- are personally injured as a result of a security incident on a train or station
- are the dependant of a deceased victim of a rail accident
- fall or are pushed out of a train or on a station platform
- fall when boarding or disembarking a train.
How DSC Attorneys can help
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims, including train accident claims. Our expert attorneys and medico-legal specialists can assess your claim, assist in compiling a strong case and represent you in legal proceedings. We offer a no obligation first consultation and work on a “no win, no fee” basis.