The real train experience for Cyril

President Cyril Ramaphosa on the train from Mabopane, north of Pretoria, to Pretoria station on Monday morning.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on the train from Mabopane, north of Pretoria, to Pretoria station on Monday morning.
Image: Twitter/ANCJHB

Power outages and a perfect storm of other glitches gave President Cyril Ramaphosa a first-hand experience of frustrations faced
by millions of train commuters on a daily basis.

Yesterday Ramaphosa, along with Gauteng premier David Makhura and ANC elections head Fikile Mbalula, boarded a train around 7am from Mabopane to the Pretoria CBD, but the train got stuck for over two hours.

The delay saw commuters disembark in frustration while the president was late for his two meetings, with the ruling party's top six as well as with the National Union of Mineworkers, respectively.

The experience was meant to acquaint Ramaphosa with the hardships commuters faced on their daily travels to and from work but perhaps it achieved more than just that.

Before the delay, there was even that quintessential South African image of people hanging out of carriages of a moving and overcrowded train.

"It's no longer a fable; it's the lived reality of our people - and we are going to take steps to change the situation because our people deserve the best," Ramaphosa said.

"I'm rather glad that I came. I've seen for myself."

However, yesterday's train delay is just one bit of the many problems in public transport that ordinary people are faced with daily, particularly those using trains.

Take safety for instance. Three months ago the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) threatened to suspend Prasa's safety permit after four people died and 620 were injured in a train collision in Mountainview, Pretoria.

The permit suspension would've affected about 1.4-million people who use trains daily in Gauteng.

In October last year, the RSR suspended Prasa's permit following a similar train collision in Kempton Park that injured more than 300 people. Prasa appealed to the North Gauteng High Court and an order was granted instructing it to comply with safety requirements. These perennial train delays have seen angry commuters torch trains, at a great cost to the rail agency.

What all these problems highlight is the urgent need to improve a public transport system that is safe, reliable and efficient.

So Mr President, you now have the lived experience of the problem, fix it.

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