Nearly 7,000 rail-related crimes reported in 2015

The police's Rail Safety Unit says a rise in protests is among the factors that hamper commuter safety.

FILE: Fire and smoke damage at Cape Town Station following an incident of arson in April 2016. Picture: Aletta Harrison/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The police's Rail Safety Unit says the poor maintenance of the train service has contributed to nearly 7,000 rail-related crimes last year.

Briefing the Community Safety Standing Committee in the Provincial Legislature today, the unit's Jaco Bothma explained that an increase in violent protests and poor infrastructure were among the factors that hamper commuter safety.

Bothma says the unit also needs additional resources.

Bothma says the Rail Safety Unit's 500-member team, spread across 122 train stations throughout the Western Cape, is not enough.

He adds a lack of security cameras, proper lighting and boundaries around the railway network provide a breeding ground for criminals.

"We must not allow criminals to come into the system. We must block criminals 'there and then'. But as long as we're sitting with open-mind systems, it becomes very difficult."

To better combat crime, Bothma says the unit is also looking to improve its partnerships with communities and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).