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HomeNewsReturn of South Africa’s long-distance trains struck by disaster – Trip completed by bus

Return of South Africa’s long-distance trains struck by disaster – Trip completed by bus

The triumphant return of the Shosholoza Meyl long-distance rail service between Joburg and Cape Town was struck by disaster on 8 December after the trip was cut short due to cable theft along the route.

Travelling from Gauteng, the train made its final stop at Wellington, Western Cape – some 70km away from its destination – after it was discovered that overhead cables between Kaalfontein and Muldersvlei were stolen, forcing passengers to complete their journey via bus.

“We are acutely aware of the inconvenience suffered by our passengers. In response, we activated our contingency plan and promptly arranged buses to cover the remaining 70km to Cape Town,” said a statement by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

“This incident, though beyond our direct control, underscores the pressing challenge of copper wire theft affecting our services.”

The daily commuter train between Wellington and Cape Town was also affected by these criminal acts, said the agency.

Shosholoza Meyl passengers finishing the trip by bus

Operational challenges aplenty

A day before the unfortunate incident, Prasa outlined to the Department of Transport (DoT) the main challenges to the resumption of long-distance passenger trains and reaffirmed its commitment to addressing these issues.

“The country is currently facing a shortage of locomotives, and some of those available are unreliable. This may result in delays and, in some cases, even cancellations,” said Prasa.

“Contingency plans are in place for trips on all four corridors where the Mainline Passenger Services (MLPS) service operates.”

While it shared no particulars on its objectives, Prasa promised it will ensure access to locomotives and improve the infrastructure quality and availability in conjunction with sister agency Transnet.

Meanwhile, Prasa has implemented enhanced safety and security protocols to improve passenger safety on its coaches, including visible security on board all trains and platforms.

“Passenger feedback will be critical as we accelerate the roll-out of the MLPS service and shape its future. We call on our passengers to share their experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Prasa is committed to delivering a service that meets the expectations of its stakeholders, especially passengers,” said the rail agency.

“The resumption of the MLPS service is a critical step in Prasa’s recovery of all aspects of passenger rail. The agency is determined to deliver a reliable, safe, comfortable long-distance train experience.”

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