By Alex Mitchley
The cost of rolling stock repairs for the train carriages gutted during a fire at the Cape Town station on Saturday is estimated at R33m.
Metrorail group chief strategy officer Dr Sipho Sithole said a total of 12 coaches, two motor coaches and nine plain trailers were destroyed.
“The estimated cost from rolling stock damages currently stands at R33m. Approximately 300 meters of centenary and contact wires which are critical to automate train control has been damaged,” said Sithole.
Sithole added that the latest fire is a clear setback to Metrorail Western Cape in “its progressive improvement of its train set availability and to decrease overcrowding”.
“The Western Cape has increased its available train sets from 39 trains in December 2018 to 56 trains with a further increase to 60 trains sets by mid-April 2019.
“In addition, the Western Cape has recently received two new trail trains as part of the next phase of new train deployments along with a R 9.1 billion capital funding allocation to fund the Western Cape’s rail infrastructure upgrades.”
He said the bulk of the funding, R3bn, would see the region phase in 35 new train-sets, while R2.9bn will be used to upgrade the maintenance depot, security and fencing/walling. R1.6bn will be spent on station upgrades and another 1.6bn for the replacement of signalling.
Sithole said the initial indications point to arson as the cause of the fire, and that it is currently being investigated by police.
“SAPS detectives were on the scene and along with the CCTV footage, a robust investigation is underway.”
On Monday, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande blamed the fire on a “relentless force”, saying it was “now undeniable that there is a sinister force at work trying to destroy our rail system”.
The minister called on law enforcement to arrest the perpetrators behind the “sabotage” to the Metrorail trains in Cape Town.
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato also suggested that the fire was deliberate, saying the reality is that more than 40 carriages have been burnt in arson attacks since 2017.
He added that not a single person has been charged as being responsible for any of the more than 10 incidents over the past two years.