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#Metrorail: Possible breakthrough in train arson attack probe

It's believed a person has been taken in for questioning in connection with one incident of arson.

Metrorail commuters onboard an overcrowded train on 20 April 2016. Picture: Monique Mortlock/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - There's reportedly been a breakthrough in investigations into a rash of arson attacks on Metrorail trains in Cape Town.

#Metrorail Boarding a train in Philippi is proving to be difficult for some. XK pic.twitter.com/7jx8zRjvaw

It's believed a person has been taken in for questioning in connection with one arson incident, but it's unclear at this stage if the individual has been charged.

Police, however, have not confirmed or denied if someone is being questioned.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape has called for stringent action against the person, if and when formal charges are laid.

Metrorail Regional Manager Richard Walker says company infrastructure has been targeted yet again, this time in the Eerste River area.

"We had some cable and apparatus equipment stolen this morning in the Eerste River area, which is impacting trains on the northern line. The ongoing vandalism in the Khayelitsha and Philippi areas are also still impacting heavily on the services' central train line."

TASK TEAM

Western Cape Transport MEC Donald Grant wants to set up a task team to assess Metrorail's numerous problems.

#Metrorail Several vandalised seats inside the 7:40am train from Paarl station. SF pic.twitter.com/hAjVFr3Fst

"It's been commissioned by the national minister and I am waiting for approval from her then we will put it up into the public domain, but it's a very comprehensive plan dealing with the basics."

The MEC has labelled the spate of arson attacks on trains as acts of economic sabotage.

#Metrorail Situation at the Philippi train station this morning. No trains for the last hour. @JustKoyana here pic.twitter.com/5oeQYicADu

Grant has told Eyewitness News he had appealed to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters two months ago, requesting her to approve a task team for the Western Cape.

DAMAGE BILL

The rail operator has suffered millions of rand worth of damage following a spate of arson attacks and vandalism over the past few weeks.

The central line has been the worst affected.

Walker, says the company's technicians have had their hands full as they repair all the damage.

"The major concern for us is to ensure that we get commuters from point A to point B."

A University of Cape Town (UCT) professor says national government should be providing more assistance to Metrorail in the Cape to help overcome its problems.

Civil Engineering Professor Marianne van der Schuren says, "I have never in this country experienced national government indicating that something is a crisis and that they've got to get involved, not when the mountain is on fire and not when Prasa is having problems. I really do think national government needs to come to the party as well."

TRAIN COMMUTERS ARE FUMING

The attacks on the rail operator's services have affected several commuters across the city.

A Klapmuts resident says she is fed up with Metrorail and its poor services.

Anita Laksman works as a security guard in Paarl and has just finished a night shift.

Laksman says when her train is delayed, she often has to phone her employers to take her home.

"The service is very bad and there is no extra transport. We must buy our tickets every month and when the trains are late, they only apologise but there are no buses or any other transport for us."

At the same time, commuters at Eikenfontein Station in Kraaifontein have accepted they'll be late for work and school this morning, and overcrowded train carriages are the order of the day.

#Metrorail You're left thinking: "Should I rather have risked being squashed than risk being late for work?" MM pic.twitter.com/ekVTr6Bgnx

Several commuters could be heard asking each other whether the trains would be late again today.

"We don't know," was the curt response from a ticket conductor when he was asked if training are running on time.

One commuter could be heard telling another "It will most probably be late, you know how it goes with 'metrofail'."

Hundreds of commuters eagerly rushed to get on the 3508 train when it arrived at 7am.

#Metrorail reporter @MoniqueMortlock at Eikenfontein station: "Couldn't get on the train because it's overcrowded." pic.twitter.com/IytODbiHPg

After an intense struggle to board an already overcrowded carriage, with several people even falling out, many commuters have simply given up and accepted that they'll be late for work.

Some commuters say travelling by train is still the most convenient option for them, despite ongoing delays in Metrorail services.

An uninterrupted journey from Eikenfontein to Cape Town station takes about 51 minutes. That means about two hours of a northern line commuter's day is spent on a train.

Commuters on the central line are also forced to travel in overcrowded trains.

Commuters are boarding trains through windows while some stand between carriages, risking their safety to get to their destinations on time.

Some people are illegally crossing railway tracks to get to trains on other platforms.

Trains from Wellington and Paarl however appear to be running on schedule this morning.

Ticket conductors at the station say trains have been "more or less" on time this morning.

They however can't say if any trains have been cancelled.

Commuters at the station say while they're dissatisfied with the service, this is the only mode of public transport they can use to get to work.