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In April this year, Eyewitness News in conjunction with the Cape Argus launched a “social experiment” aimed at giving a voice to the thousands of commuters who use the Metrorail train service every day.
In the Western Cape, some 600 000 people make use of the rail service which has been dogged, for years, by its reputation of being unreliable.
Our group of travelers tweeted daily on their travel experiences – documenting both the highs and lows. In June, Metrorail announced a three year plan to get its house in order.
It is in the process of buying new train sets; it has beefed up security with the help of 100 army reservists and is in talks with the SANDF to bring in even more reservists.
This has seen a 14 percent drop in incidents of vandalism.
Recently, the rail operator issued a statement on how its service reliability has improved.
The percentage of trains being on time was at 78% in March, 82% in May and 94% in July.
With the second phase of the Metrorail Diaries our “tweet crew” will once again bring us daily updates on their travels via our Twitter handle @MetrorailDiary.
The account is also a platform for other travelers to share their experiences using the hashtag #MetrorailDiaries.
The aim, quite simply, is to test the rail service and hear, from the ground, whether Metrorial’s efforts to improve its service, are paying off.
I joined thousands of Metrorail commuters as a first-year varsity student in 2004. Since then I’ve travelled the northern line between Eerste River and Bellville, Eerste River and Stellenbosch and now Eerste River to Cape Town. One cannot really associate Metrorail with highs, but I must admit that it’s cheaper than petrol, there’s no traffic, and you meet interesting characters and even make new friends. But it’s not always safe, it’s unreliable as the trains are often late or cancelled. Because of delays and cancellations, the trains are extremely full. The state of the carriages has also become worse over the years – some, especially MetroPlus, don’t even have seats.
I’ve been taking Metrorail trains around Cape Town for nearly a year. Before that I travelled by minibus taxi for three years.The plus side in taking the train is that it’s supposed to get you to your destination faster than taking a taxi or bus. But ongoing delays caused by attacks on Metrorail’s ailing infrastructure, has left me wondering whether trains are reliable at all. I think my worst experience on a train was witnessing a verbal, racist attack between commuters on a trip to Lakeside from Simons Town. In a new South Africa where many rely on public transport, this shouldn’t be tolerated.
I’m a single mother of two, living in Athlone. I have been travelling on trains for the last twelve years and now use the Cape Flats line on a daily basis. I enjoy travelling by train as I don’t have to sit in traffic for an hour and a half. But the service is very unpredictable and unreliable. Having to call your boss to say that the trains are delayed or cancelled and hoping that they’ll understand, becomes frustrating at times. In summer you sit in full carriages that do not have windows. In winter trains are delayed or cancelled due to technical difficulty, caused by rain. They've somehow not been able to fix this problem over the years.
I look forward to keeping you all posted in the coming week on the trains on my line
Unlike thousands of commuters, I am fortunate to travel to work using my car, but I do know from being a reporter, that travelling on a Metrorail train is anything but pleasant. Over the years, the Cape Argus has reported extensively on the problems with Metrorail, the frustrations suffered by commuters, safety issues, crime and grime. I am looking forward to reporting first-hand my experience.
MONDAY - DAY ONE
A selection of tweets via @MetrorailDiary.
#MetrorailDiaries Morning :) on my way to Strand station this AM. It's going to fun documenting my travels again. @chanelseptember
#MetrorailDiaries we doing that standing in the middle of nowhere thing - gosh it's annoying. CS
#MetrorailDiaries heading towards Melton Rose station now despite a 5 minute delay we moving swiftly. CS
No surprise. I can't get inside a single carriage. Too full! Doors open, commuters hanging out, train pulls away. GR #MetrorailDiaries
#MetrorailDiaries when train this full you must watch your belongings. CS
#MetrorailDiaries people still jumping in carriage as train departs from Bellville station. CS
Train 0518 arrived at 7:58am (3 minutes late) on the Cape Flats line#MetrorailDiaries JM
#MetrorailDiaries 2 ladies in my carriage complaining about how the trains always run late. CS
We've made it to CPT with 3 mins to spare. On time and happy. Good time! GR #MetrorailDiaries
#MetrorailDiaries As predicted we arrive at CT station 5 minutes later than usual. CS
TUESDAY - DAY TWO
A selection of tweets via @Metroraildiary
#MetrorailDiaries Train number 3208 has arrived at Strand station - we pull away right on time 06:50. CS
#MetrorailDiaries another random stop as we travel towards Eersteriver. CS
No ticket verifiers at Diep River station! EC #MetrorailDiaries
Train is stuffy! Too much people. Can't breathe! Did I mention that no windows are open? EC #MetrorailDiaries
More people getting on at Elsies River, ignoring sign above saying "Do not board when full". GR #MetrorailDiaries
Two men get on carriage, see it's too full, train pulls away, they jump off. It's like a movie. GR #MetrorailDiaries
Broken track circuits @Langa causing delays, technicians on site #capetowntrains # metrorail
Sho! My train was late but made CPT right on time! Speeding? Haha! @GraemeRauby signing out. #MetrorailDiaries
#MetrorailDiaries CT station :) train 5 minutes 5 minutes late. No major incidents only random pit stops. Good journey. Enjoy your day! CS
WEDNESDAY - DAY THREE
#MetrorailDiaries queue growing at the ticket office as people buy their monthly tickets. CS
#MetrorailDiaries We supposed to arrive in CT at 08:12. I don't think that's going to happen. CS
Did a random ticket check at Plumstead station. Commuters are not impressed! EC #MetrorailDiaries
Train 0521 from Cape Town to Heathfield overloaded. People hanging on the outside of the train #MetrorailDiaries JM
Guy runs pass ticket officers without a ticket to jump on to the train#MetrorailDiaries JM
#MetrorailDiaries We're in CT 15 minutes later than sheduled. No major drama during journey. Enjoy you Wednesday :) CS
Train pulls into cape town on time #MetrorailDiaries LJ
THURSDAY - DAY FOUR
Many commuters still sleeping on my carriage, excep for one or two women talking loudly about some businessman. GR #MetrorailDiaries
Yet again can't fault Metrorail on it's punctuality. We've made CPT in good time! GR #MetrorailDiaries
Overcrowding and "stop/start" seems to be the order of the day for our #MetrorailDiaries crew this morning @MetrorailDiary
#MetrorailDiaries Lady on my left just called her boss to inform her she'll be late for work. this train should have been in CT already. CS
#MetrorailDiaries 26 minutes later we make it to CT station. Not a good AM journey, but I admit it could have been worse. Enjoy your day! CS
* Just got into a 3rd class coach train full no seat available dozens of people standing #MetrorailDiaries CS
* If my tweets stop its because its too dangerous to use phone on the train.#MetrorailDiaries LJ
* Maybe I should do what this commuter is doing. Sitting on the floor seems to be working for her #MetrorailDiaries CS
* Man jumps out of moving carriage some commuters hold their breath while others shout at him for being irresponsible #MetrorailDiaries CS
* @ nyanga station we're packed in like sardines. windows can't open. #MetrorailDiaries LJ
* Doors open, train too full people hanging out holding on to door pole. #MetrorailDiaries LJ
* Must say I'm on a very clean train, no graffiti in sight. Most seats are full, it's stand and tweet for me. #MetrorailDiaries GR
* My train friends godfrey and mncedisi are late. The train is running late. #MetrorailDiaries LJ
* I spot the train opposite mine and commuters are literally hanging out the open doors. That train's en-route to Parow. GR
* An hour-and-a-half from my home to office my car would have been quicker #MetrorailDiaries LJ
EWN Cape Town Editor Janine Willemans takes a look at day one
Our MetrorailDairies group has completed its first morning of tweeting. Of the six members, only Graeme Raubenheimer had a completely incident-free ride into the Cape Town CBD.
Jessica Morkel’s train arrived on time at Athlone station, but two stops just before Maitland and Cape Town stations meant her journey into work was a bit of a stop-start affair.
Chanel September and Candice Esben were both kept waiting longer than usual for their respective trains and when they finally arrived, they too faced one or two unscheduled stops between stations. Candice’s train arrived in Cape Town half an hour later than scheduled.
Cape Argus reporter, Lynnette Johns who hasn’t been on a train in years met some interesting characters along the way and was also not spared a pit stop just short of her destination. It took her an hour and a half from home to the office. She believes a car journey would have been quicker.
Spare a thought though for Primedia Productions Co-ordinator, Edlynn Calvert who arrived at Diep River station at 7.40am and only boarded a train at 8.10am. All this time there was but one announcement via the public address system.
TUESDAY - DAY TWO
A selection of tweets via @Metroraildiary.
* It's really cold on this train. People chatting, some reading & others sleeping. On our way to Bellville station. #MetrorailDiaries CE
* Did I mention how much I hate it when the train stops between stations? And we wait... #MetrorailDiaries CS
* Heading towards Kuilsriver now train packed. People hanging out by the door #MetrorailDiaries C
* The preaching has begun, I hope its not a msg of condemnationso loved by train preachers. #MetrorailDiaries LJ
* Tygerberg station has NO signboards indicating train times, but there are several Metrorail officials. #MetrorailDiaries GR
* Metrorail Business Express train drives past. what luxury. Those commuters sipping on coffee and reading AM papers #MetrorailDiaries CS
* Just ran from carriage to carriage looking for space on board the train to CPT. Its a full house! #MetrorailDiaries GR
* Feel like the 36th tomato in the can. I can't move #MetrorailDiaries JM
* Was knocked out the way in a very loud and full metro carriage! #MetrorailDiaries EC
* 35mins and we in Cape Town with no hiccups! #MetrorailDiaries EC
Metrorail in the Western Cape says it is determined to improve its service.
Eyewitness News and the Cape Argus launched the Metrorail Diaries this week, giving commuters a platform to air their views on what's been labeled an ailing rail network. Delays, vandalism, crime and dirty carriages are just some of the ongoing issues plaguing Metrorail. It is a service responsible for ferrying more than 50 percent of Capetonians, who rely on public transport, to and from work daily But what is being done to improve the rail network? Listen to Graeme's report in the multimedia section below.
WEDNESDAY - DAY THREE
A selection of tweets via @Metroraildiary.
* Hassle free trip to town this morning. And the train was on time. Till later #MetrorailDiaries CE
* No officials means no access control, this may lead to fare defaulters, no money means a poorer service for you and me. #MetrorailDiaries GR
* Morning all! @GraemeRauby here at Tygerberg station, and guess what? No Metrorail officials present. #MetrorailDiaries GR
* Pulling into Eersteriver station I just see people don't know where they'll fit carriage full #MetrorailDiaries CS
* All I can hear is a commuter shouting "maak oop die V@£!?k deur! #MetrorailDiaries CS
* On the 3408 to Cape Town from Tygerberg. The carriages are well, jam alley! Pick a spot and be squashed. #MetrorailDiaries GR
* At Bellville station - my train right on time. No hassles on this journey #MetrorailDiaries CS
* Still standing on Diep River station and no announcement of "Trains are delayed" #MetrorailDiaries EC
* Every 5 minutes I check my bag and phone. You never know in this crowded carriage anything can happen. #MetrorailDiaries CS
* In CPT! My train made excellent time this morning. I'm quite chuffed! Some still sleeping - wake up, we're here! #MetrorailDiaries GR
* Walls are colorfully decorated with words one should not mention...#MetrorailDiaries EC
* Guys prefer to ride with the door open #MetrorailDiaries EC
THURSDAY - DAY FOUR
A selection of tweets from @Metroraildiary.
* This carriage looks decent, by that I mean clean. Not stuffy. Has windows. Can't see any broken seats. #MetrorailDiaries CE
* Lakeside has no signboards - instead an A4 piece of paper with random times pencilled in. #MetrorailDiaries GR
* One or two people standing in the carriage. But the rest of us all have seats. This train's moving. #MetrorailDiaries CE
* @chanelseptember I made it! Security had a beady eye on all commuters including myself who rn to catch the train #MetrorailDiaries CS
* Being a minutes late when I travel by car makes no difference. With public transport it makes the world of difference #MetrorailDiaries LJ
* Train full, but not as packed as the previous days. Could they be enjoying the long weekend already? #MetrorailDiaries CS