Ramaphosa promised better trains — but criminals stole the railway tracks

Criminals have destroyed South Africa’s railway system in many parts of the country, with missing tracks, gutted train stations, and stolen cables.

Journalist Nickolaus Bauer has recently posted a series of photos to show the destruction of South Africa’s rail infrastructure.

The pillaging of the railway system accelerated during the hard lockdown, preventing trains from operating.

Carte Blanche revealed that the infrastructure vandalism and theft, which amounts to billions in damage, happen in broad daylight.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa’s) network is carried away bit by bit, with criminals stripping every piece of copper and steel they can find.

Cabling and other infrastructure stolen from station
Cabling and other infrastructure stolen from station

There is no risk to criminals because security contracts were cancelled and guards around the country withdrawn. It happened after the Public Protector exposed corruption related to these contracts.

The destruction of railway infrastructure is so severe that passenger rail services have been rendered useless in many areas.

The Sunday Times reported that signalling technology, which cost Prasa R7 billion, lies “useless alongside the railway tracks”. Cable theft rendered the signalling system unusable.

The signalling system was supposed to reduce train delays and cancellations in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape.

“You can’t put so many billions in installing such state-of-the-art infrastructure in signalling but do not secure it,” a Prasa insider told the Sunday Times.

Another Prasa insider said the work done in the command room means nothing if the infrastructure is no longer on the trackside.

“On-track equipment should be sending signals to the GNC, but that is not working because the infrastructure remains dead as long as tracks are stolen,” he said.

Cabling next to railway line stolen
Cabling next to railway line stolen

Railway expert Herman Bruwer predicted last year that it would take at least two years and billions of rands to fix the destruction caused.

To address the continued looting, Prasa planned to employ 3,000 guards to start protecting infrastructure from August 2020.

Prasa spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa said they were employing trained guards to ensure there is immediate impact.

Fast forward a year, and the theft and vandalism of Prasa’s infrastructure did not stop.

Bauer revealed that criminals ripped out a 3-kilometre stretch of railway tracks near Delmore station on the Germiston to Springs line in recent weeks.

He added that thieves continue to rip railway infrastructure out of the ground and walls.

Jeppe train station
Jeppe train station

These reports come after President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled new Prasa train sets that he said will ensure “commuters are on time and safe”.

The new Prasa trains boasted onboard Wi-Fi for passengers and air conditioning to make the journey pleasant for commuters.

The launch of the new trains was part of Prasa’s 20-year modernisation programme.

The programme aims to revitalise the rail industry through local manufacturing of parts, maintenance, and the establishment of training facilities.

“I promise that we are going to make sure that our trains run on time…we are going to improve rail transportation,” he said.

These ideals are commendable, but the looting of infrastructure have made it impossible for trains to operate on many popular routes.

Hard-working South Africans who rely on the railway system for affordable transport now have to use more expensive services to travel.

The images below, courtesy of Nickolaus Bauer, illustrates the devastation caused by criminals.

Railway tracks stolen

Railway tracks cut

Prasa buildings

Video of stolen railway tracks

Now read: Criminals are wrecking South African mobile networks for their batteries

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Ramaphosa promised better trains — but criminals stole the railway tracks