A ticket to ride again

Bayview police, Warrant Officer Sylvester Viradu, Constable Divesh Mahabal and Constable Kellin Venkatasu, patrolled the Bayview Railway Station on Monday. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/Independent Newspapers

Bayview police, Warrant Officer Sylvester Viradu, Constable Divesh Mahabal and Constable Kellin Venkatasu, patrolled the Bayview Railway Station on Monday. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 11, 2024


THE "People's Train" has finally hit the tracks in Chatsworth after massive refurbishments of the railway stations at Havenside, Bayview, Westcliff, Chatsglen and Merebank. In three months, residents in Crossmoor will also be able to commute by train at a fraction of the cost.

The new People’s Train at the Bayview Railway Station.

The six-cart “Stimela Sabantu” (People’s Train), which runs at 120km per hour with a capacity to carry 1 200 passengers, has been designed to keep commuters safe.

The train will only move when the doors are closed, which means commuters can no longer stand at the entry-exit points while it is in motion. In addition, they cannot sit on the roof, as was the case previously; and there will be surveillance cameras on board.

If you fear the train may be too stuffy on a humid day, well now you can look forward to travelling in an air-conditioned cart. Best of all is the ticket price. It will cost a third of what one would pay to travel by taxi or bus per trip.

For example, a trip from Chatsworth to Durban by taxi will cost around R23 but to travel by train, it will only cost R5.30.

Trains have not been operational in Chatsworth for about three years due to vandalism and theft of infrastructure. Cables, windows and doors were also stolen from the stations from Crossmoor to Merebank.

The “Stimela Sabantu”, introduced by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) following the restoration of railway stations in Chatsworth, will operate from the Merebank to Chatsglen railway stations.

Falakhe Mhlongo, convenor of the United Community Voice (UCV) committee, tasked to work with Prasa during the refurbishment, said the Crossmoor Railway Station would be operational by July.

"The safety issues associated with the old trains have been addressed with the design and operations of the trains. This will be reinforced by security interventions, station upgrades and fencing."

Mhlongo said the UCV, comprising several community, religious and business stakeholders in Chatsworth, would continue to oversee and work with Prasa to ensure the railway stations are protected and taken care of.

“When the project started, we established the committee to ensure we lent support to Prasa, so the project could be completed without glitches. When the workers tried to strike, we approached, discussed and resolved their issues with them, so it would not affect the project. Part of our role was to ensure safety and that there was no theft,” he said.

He added: “Private security companies, employed by Prasa, are stationed at each railway station. We will also employ locals as security. In addition, there will be security and surveillance cameras. But everyone needs to play a role to protect the railway lines and stations.

“Our aim is to ensure the train operates and people benefit. People will save money by using the train. To take a train to Durban will only cost R5.30. This is a big saving and it is needed now, when the cost of living is so high."

He said plans were in the pipeline to establish a pathway for those who crossed at the Chatsglen Railway Station, as the committee had identified the area as a hotspot for crime and road accidents.

Prasa spokesperson, Andiswa Makanda, said the reopening of the Merebank to Chatsglen railway lines was a new milestone for Prasa.

The rail agency has restored four other rail services in the country: Johannesburg to Florida, Johannesburg to Nancefield, Germiston to Elsburg and Cape Town to Stellenbosch.

Makanda said this demonstrated their commitment to revitalising passenger rail services; and providing an efficient and cost-effective public transport option for South Africans.

“Recognising the growing demand for our services, we are actively working to repair vandalised signalling equipment. These repairs are essential not only for the safe operation of our trains but also to increase the frequency of our services to meet our commuters' needs."