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No new trains for Cape Town after R30m arson attack?
A passenger was shot dead in one of three Metrorail trains that caught alight on Friday.
It is believed that gunfire may have sparked one of the blazes in Paarl.
A second fire occurred in Firgrove where two carriages were set alight, while a third fire destroyed an unknown number of train carriages at the Cape Town train station.
The incidents happened between noon and 3 pm. Metrorail spokesperson Zino Mihi confirmed the incidents but the details were still sketchy at the time of going to puspect they’re related, but (all the incidents) are under investigation,” Mihi said.
City fire and rescue spokesperson Theo Layne confirmed the two incidents in Firgrove and at the Cape Town train station. He said there were no reported injuries. Firefighters struggled to douse the fire.
In July, Weekend Argus reported that Metrorail lost R210million to fire damage over the past five years.
Nceba Hinana, the chairperson of the Western Cape legislature’s standing committee on transport and public works, said the incidents happened following his meeting with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
They discussed Mkhwebane’s investigation into the Metrorail crisis.
Hinana said he shared new information with Mkhwebane.
Hinana said his committee would “clarify the cause behind these fires”.
Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron said the urban rail system was already operating at a fraction of the capacity that it needed to service commuter demand.
He said in the past three years more than 140 carriages were lost to arson.
“Our commuter rail system is under relentless attack, and it is our most vulnerable citizens who are the worst affected by the declining rail service.
“This has a huge impact on our local economy and also affects other Capetonians.
“I said before that there appears to be a well-orchestrated and sinister force at work to destroy our very fragile but essential rail service.
“A total collapse of our Metrorail service is a prospect too ghastly to contemplate.
“The city (council) and the Western Cape government have stepped forward to assist with the establishment of a dedicated rail enforcement unit.
“We did so because Metrorail commuters are our residents and their livelihoods depend on a safe, functional, and efficient rail service,” Herron said.
Mayco member for safety, security and social services JP Smith said the city’s rail unit, trained after an agreement with Metrorail two months ago, would be on the stations and trains across the city.
The rail unit will be in uniform and also in plain-clothes. He said a “soft launch” would take place next week.
This article first appeared on www.iol.co.za
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