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By Getrude Makhafola and Canaan Mdletshe | May 17, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THOUSANDS of train commuters will have to find alternative transport as a massive strike by Metro Rail workers begins this morning.

THOUSANDS of train commuters will have to find alternative transport as a massive strike by Metro Rail workers begins this morning.

Divisions of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, which includes Shosholoza Meyl and long-distance bus operations City to City and Translux, will have ground to a halt today.

Unions are demanding a 16 percent across-the-board wage increase, while Prasa is offering a five percent increase.

To avoid damage to its property Prasa said it would "shut down" all its train operations from today.

This comes after Transnet chief executive Chris Wells said last week that Transnet strikers had caused more than R20 million in damage to the company's equipment and property.

In Johannesburg, Herman van der Haeir, head of Metrobus, said his company had only a certain number of buses and would only manage to accommodate a limited number of commuters.

"We will help wherever we can, but capacity remains a challenge," van der Haeir said .

Putco spokesperson Raphiri Matsaneng said stranded commuters could go to their nearest Putco bus stop to catch a bus.

"That will depend on the availability of buses. Our customers buy tickets and come first," said Matsaneng.

Metro Rail spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal Thandi Mkhize said train passengers would have to use other forms of transport.

"They will have to improvise. This is an unfortunate situation and we cannot provide alternative transport for them. If only one train that had a problem we would have arranged buses. But, since we know that all the trains will not be running it's impossible to do anything else.

"We have not been selling weekly tickets to our passengers because we knew that there would be no trains available. Hence, we are giving them an opportunity to find other means of transport," Mkhize said.

He said there would be no trains from Stanger, Durban, Umlazi, KwaMashu, Cato Ridge and South Coast.

Taxi operators will have their hands full, trying to accommodate commuters.

Bafana Mhlongo said they had disseminated information to all taxi associations to be on their toes.

"Taxis will be up and running very early in the morning until very late in the evening to accommodate the passengers.

"We encourage them to wake up early so that there won't be congestion and long queues at our ranks and stations from this morning," Mhlongo said.


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