Have Metrorail really improved by 30 ways in 30 weeks?

The latest map of Cape Town’s urban rail system, considered the public transport backbone of the city.
Funny how the Castle of Good Hope is on the wrong side of the station. (Cape Town Station, eish eish.)

A month ago, Metrorail released their ‘30 improvements made in 30 weeks‘ statement, which we fully congratulate them for. For the duration of Transport Month, we have gathered a series of responses from commuters that use the rail service, from across Cape Town, to confirm whether these 30 improvements were implemented successfully.

With outdated rail stock and years of under-investment, we understand that Metrorail is under immense pressure to provide a safe and reliable rail commuter service. However, communication to citizens is key, and while Metrorail can be recognised for striving to improve communication (see GoMetro),  it is still they need to work on. Many of the ’30 improvements’ can be considered as duplicates or PR-talk. We believe it’s also important to ensure that the improvements are fully implemented or enforced before claiming such statements.

Here is my reduced list from the statement release by Metrorail. Some improvements they specified are completely unrelated to commuters, some duplicates and others just confusing.

  1. Train windows have been replaced at a total cost R417,944 for temporary windows and R717,600 on permanent windows.
  2. Eight speed restrictions have been removed, contributing to punctuality.
  3. Prasa Rail launched its nationwide National Passenger Safety Campaign in Cape Town.
  4. The campaign comprises the introduction of platform marshals at 7 key stations.
  5. Safety branded coaches, continuous safety campaigns in communities and at schools contribute to public safety consciousness and promotes a zero-tolerance approach to ill-disciplined commuters.
  6. A 24 hour maintenance regime demanded revised shift working which yielded impressive results.
  7. Train cancellations have dropped to below 1%. 
  8. Punctuality has improved from 72% to 83%; still below the region’s target of a consistent 90%. Swartz pointed out that frequently the region was able to reach and exceed 90%: ‘Prasa Technical now focuses on sustaining and improving this performance’.
  9. Security concerns have been addressed through the introduction of more than 100 extra Protection Services Officials.
  10. Sixty platform marshals are currently in place.
  11. A crime prevention strategy of reactive and proactive deployment has resulted in a 40% reduction in crime.
  12. Maintenance conducted after hours/weekends and reliability returned to the service.
  13. All 85 train-sets have been returned to service, with all available spare train-sets in place in case of emergencies.
  14. Revenue enhancement strategies such as Top 10 Station focus and intensified ticket verification through Employee Task Teams and Stop & Detrain Actions have netted an additional R51m to date, a 13.9% improvement on the last financial year.
  15. Lack of accurate and accessible timetables have been addressed through the introduction of a new mobile train information system. Go Metro is a mobile service that provides easy-to-use train schedules, a trip planner and fare calculator on www.gometro.co.za. General information like route maps, terms & conditions of travel, tourist & business services are also on hand. The site is regularly updated with changes to the scheduled service, reflects average delays per service corridor and daily maintenance programme.

Cape Flats Line – Brown on the rail map.

Reddit user clakstin that has been taking Metrorail everyday from Ottery for the past 6 years and these were his views: [sic]

  • windows fixed – true. less windowless carriages have become more apparent. Winter past had less wet seats.
  • speed restrictions removed. punctuality increase – false. this is either a joke or just taken from one specifically good line. the speed thing must also be a joke. when I first started taking the train, my trip took about 22min. now it’s gone all the way up to almost 35min. 15min increase seems like they’ve slowed down if anything.
  • re-instating assets – true. have been noticing more and more new/refurbished carriages and less broken ones.
  • increased safety – unknown. I don’t know how to rate this since, thankfully I’m always on the peak hour trains and never empty. I would say though that there hasn’t been any change on checking who gets on the train. If beggar people can get on a train then who is to say other dodgier characters can’t?
  • new platform marshals – unknown. I haven’t seen any new official type people that made any difference on any stations. if they’re there for the other staff, then they’re definitely needed at CPT station.
  • train cancellations below 1% – false. this must be a joke or just a play on words. previous cancels would just have the train renamed for a different time. no what happens, is instead of cancellation, the train is “delayed” by at least 30min on average.
  • more security officials – true, but so what? They do nothing. I see them once a month and all they do is about 5 – 10 of them get on the train, on one carriage, talk a bunch k*k to each other and then get off a few stations later. Maybe once or twice there have been security people who walked through the carriage but they seemed like n00bs.
  • more platform marshals – unknown. WTF for? Just going to a station like CPT tells you this means nothing when you see them lazing about telling you to use another exit because they too bust talking k*k to one of their tjomies or they don’t lus to do anything. Big help more people doing nothing is.

Elton Ward, who’s rail line we are uncertain of, had this to say:

I travel on the train and see no improvement in the monitoring of people with incorrect or no tickets in the Metro Plus carriages. Trains are still filled to over capacity and twice last week I was late for work due to train delays?

Northern Line – Dark green on the rail map.

Deidre Baartman, student has this to say on the Metrorail service:

1) I take Metro Rail approximately once a week to Cape Town from the Stellenbosch Station. The reason for this is due to the far distance between my house and the station and it is unsafe for a girl to walk to and from the train station alone in the dark. In the June and July university holidays I took the train every day from Kraaifontein. The end of July, I took the train every day from Observatory. Again, in the holidays, I came back to Stellenbosch once a week. I also have to go to CT whenever I have meetings there (thus ad hoc basis).

2) The service is generally the same at all 3 train stations with a little bit of variation. The trains tend to be always late, it’s always dirty, there’s graffiti on the train, usually you have to make sure there isn’t something gross on your seat, it is always full; and at the Kraaifontein station people hang out of the train due to the lack of space especially if the trains are late. Lastly, I tend to take 3rd class because it is safer because there’s more people.

3) Improvements (the numbers related to the ones above):

Points 1-6 not noticed.

Points 7 and 8 have noticed (But I guess they had to because there was a time in June while I was interning in Cape Town where we were late for work for about a week).

Points 9 – 13 not noticed.

Point 14 noticed (especially at the Cape Town station).

Point 15 I have noticed (I use the website all the time because there are few or no maps in the train itself and I’m always afraid of getting off at the wrong station.)

4) Rating (out of 5):

I would rate them 1 in the beginning of the year and 3 now in October.

Northern Line (Business Express) and Southern Line – Pink and Red lines on map.

Pierre Jassens, has this to say on the Metrorail service:

1) He takes the Business Express train from Firgrove to Cape Town Station, makes a change to the Southern Line where he takes the train to Newlands. Normally 3 to 4 times a week.

2) Improvements (the numbers related to the ones in this post):

Point 7 – Haven’t had a cancelled train in the past couple of months.

Point 8 – Definitely more reliable of late.

Point 10 – Yes

Point 11 – I have never felt unsafe on a train. I feel unsafe on the roads regularly

Point 15 – Quite nice and should be encouraged. I use it a lot to check on times.

3) Rating (out of 5):

Earlier in the year a 1 and now a 2. If only they could do what they have done for Business Express elsewhere!

Unknown Line

User mike fox posted this video on 8 October 2012 recording his journey on a Metrorail train, noting that this is how he experiences it every day.

It seems like the GoMetro web application is a likeable improvement by commuters. I can honestly say that I even use it on my personal computer as it’s sometimes quicker and easier to use that the official Metrorail website.

With the City of Cape Town’s Transport for Cape Town authority, launched on 21 October, we hope that Metrorail will improve even further. By 2015 with the new train sets and carriages, Cape Town should be able to offer a world class train commuter service that’s safe, reliable and integrated with other public transport options.

About Rouen Smit

Future actuary working at a company based in Cape Town. Love open water swimming. Love taking public transport and feeling the city. The Future’s Bright

There is one comment

  1. Simontonian

    Always enjoy cathcing the train. Lots of countries that are better off than us have grafitti on their trains, but CT is super-bad. Until the situation in the Cape Flats re: Gangsterism is addresed, this scum will continue to deface public assets. in 2015 those new trains are gonna be a HUGE target for them ! eish

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