Station still a problem

A broken window at Athlone train station.

Commuters are crossing the tracks – in breach of Metrorail safety procedures – at Athlone train station instead of using a dangerous subway, says a local neighbourhood watch.

Garlandale Neighbourhood Watch deputy chair Natalie Barrish says conditions at the station remain dangerous despite them being reported to officials several years ago.

Ms Barrish sent the Athlone News a video in which a Metrorail official appears to instruct a commuter to walk across the tracks instead of using the flooded subway.

Ms Barrish said that contradicted the train service’s safety regulations.

She said the subway smelled awful and water ran down its walls.

“The structure seems unstable, like it could collapse,” she said.

Commuters also feared being robbed by gangsters at the train station.

“There are so many things going on there including robbery, gangsterism, drugs and a hub where they hang out in the new ticket office.”She was referring to the extra ticket office built at the station in 2012. She said vagrants were now hanging up washing inside the office.

Residents complained to the Athlone News in July 2017 about poor conditions at the station. According to Ms Barrish, things have only got worse since then, even though, Lindelo Matya, regional manager of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), had promised that the building would be reinstated as a ticket office.

The Garlandale Neighbourhood Watch has included the station in its patrols from Monday to Sunday.

“But they know that we only patrol until a certain time and then they rob the residents,” Ms Barrish said.

“At the moment, we have two 66-year-olds who are patrolling. They are so committed to their jobs, but what is Prasa doing from their side? The old people have to collect their medication and go to the doctor, and they need protection while doing so.”

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said there had been a spike in theft and vandalism at subways. Pumps, cables and lighting were stolen frequently.

“Repairing at an increased pace requires additional components and funding beyond the normal maintenance budget. Metrorail Protection Services liaise weekly with SAPS and other law enforcement agencies in the area to assist with crime prevention.

“Our teams remain vigilant and aware of crime being spatially displaced in the rail network as soon as hot spots are targeted.

“We also appeal to residents to ensure that all suspicious activity near the subway is reported to local SAPS to ensure that crime pattern and crime trend analyses are accurate as resources are deployed accordingly,” she said.

Growing unemployment was driving up vagrancy, she said.

“Until sufficient shelters are provided, they will continue to be displaced from one place to another. We remove vagrants from Prasa premises on a rotational basis,” she said.