Editor's note: South Africa once had a reliable train service. Now, Prasa serves only as an example of a ruined key national asset, argues Sikonathi Mantshantsha.
"This railway operator was once the most reliable and cheapest form of daily transportation for millions of commuters who needed to get to work.
"School children who had no affordable alternative form of transport, including this writer, were once entirely dependent on Prasa’s suburban trains, now branded MetroRail, to get them to the classroom on time. Back then, it cost R1.50 for the train to town. Today the cheapest single ticket is R7.50.
"Hailing down a minibus taxi, by comparison, will cost you at least R12 for the shortest distance. For millions of poor commuters, the train was always the only transport available.
"But cadre deployment, corruption and incompetence have robbed the poor of this last asset available to them. “Metrofail” has replaced Metrorail in the experience of the most vulnerable commuters. Only the corrupt and the deployed but clueless cadres are smiling all the way to the bank.
"This month, when it reports its financial results for the year ended March, Prasa will admit that its on-time performance has dropped to just 41%. Yes, trains only work as planned for 41% of the time. Try and run a business that needs the patronage of customers like that and see how long it lasts. Whereas in the financial year ending 2014 Metrorail carried 543-million paying passenger trips, this had dropped to just 269-million passenger paying trips four years later.
"This resulted in satisfaction for only 52% of passengers. Need I remind anyone that these are the working class, “the poorest of the poor” who have no alternative and that government always claims to represent? More on this later.
"For now, in this instalment of the Prasa files, let me reminisce about the good old days when the train was the only affordable form of transport but still left the commuter with some dignity.
"So reliable was Metrorail it even gave itself the apt payoff line: “We’ll Get You There, Noma Kanjani.” Not any more. Those days are long gone. Today’s Metrorail cannot be relied upon to timeously deliver its human cargo to their destination.
"In the 1990s, school pupils from the outlying townships of Duduza near Nigel, Daveyton near Benoni and KwaThema in the far east, and those from the south-western townships of Mohlakeng in Randfontein, Westonaria and the furthest suburbs of Soweto, could rely entirely on Metrorail for the most affordable means to get them to class in the leafy suburbs of Johannesburg."
Read the rest at the Daily Maverick.
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