13/07/2018 07:51 SAST | Updated 13/07/2018 07:53 SAST

Prasa Hires Gun-Wielding Security Guards To Stop Crime On Trains

The rail agency says over 200 train coaches have been set alight this year alone.

Metro Train in inner-city Johannesburg, South Africa.
Hoberman Collection via Getty Images
Metro Train in inner-city Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Passenger Rail Service of SA (Prasa) has employed 241 gun-toting security guards to police 25 Metrorail train stations, Daily Maverick reported. This follows the vandalisation or setting alight of over 200 Metrorail coaches since the beginning of 2018. This has reportedly cost about R80-million.

Prasa told Daily Maverick that vandalism is the reason why its train schedules are not reliable.

Prasa spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng reportedly said: "Currently commuter service expectations are based on old train schedules which we are unable to meet due to the reduction of available train sets because of increased vandalism."

A report by the Railway Safety Regulator, released in June, said crime was the leading cause of abnormal train operations and other problems such as collisions and derailments, Business Day reported.

The report said theft constitutes 69 percent of all security-related incidents on the country's rail networks. On average, there is a "railway incident" and an "operator occurrence (such as a derailment or collision)" every 16 minutes, the report stated.

According to Eyewitness News, three trains were damaged due to arson attacks in the month of June. Three carriages were set alight at the Steenberg station in one week. One person reportedly died in a fire started in a carriage near the Ottery station, while two carriages were set alight at the Retreat station. In that month alone, the damage is reported to have cost Metrorail R19-million.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande revealed this week that 869 Prasa employees had suffered disabling injuries on duty in the last three years, according to TimesLive. Most of these were reportedly due to assaults by commuters who did not pay their fares, electrocution, smoke inhalation from high-tension burnouts, trips and falls due to uneven surfaces on platforms, and incidents in company cars.