A year after the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chairperson promised to set aside women-and-children-only train carriages on Cape Town's Metrorail, the project appears to have been abandoned, GroundUp reports.
In an interview with GroundUp in June 2018, recently appointed chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama committed to implementing coaches for women and children.
"I said I will sponsor that type of project. In Women's Month, we will sign terms of reference that say this is how we are going to proceed to implement," Kweyama said.
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In a May 2018 meeting she had with civil society group #UniteBehind, she apparently made the same commitment: To personally oversee the implementation of the new carriages by August 2018.
At the time, #UniteBehind told GroundUp that the organisation was excited about it.
"When August came, we sent a letter to Prasa asking for updates on the proposal," said Zukie Vuka of #UniteBehind. "But we received no response."
Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani told GroundUp that there were additional issues with Metrorail that needed to be attended to first.
She cited the general shortage of usable train carriages and a lack of security officials to guard them.
Despite several attempts to contact Kweyama, she hasn't been available.
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#UnitedBehind continues to include special carriages as part of its rail safety demands, but the organisation recognises that there may be bigger problems with Cape Town's trains.
Daily Maverick reported that 2 000 unused carriages were in train yards across the country.
"In particular, the central line from Cape Town to Khayelitsha is extremely overcrowded," said Vuka. "Where we used to have 12 carriages per locomotive, we now have between six and eight. How about first we fix the 2 000 train carriages sitting idle in train yards?"
Vuka also pointed out that special carriages for women could become targets for criminals.
"Most of the stations have holes in them that allow people to come in without paying," she said. "These people could wait to rob or hurt people coming out of the carriages."
Vuka emphasised that asking Prasa to prioritise women-only carriages could take attention away from overcrowding, which #UniteBehind says might be a greater threat to commuter safety at this time.