MetroRail services to resume operations on 1 July
After a protracted period of lockdown-induced dormancy, MetroRail services are expected to resume on 1 July 2020. South Africa’s transport industry, like most sectors, has been ravaged by more than two months of inactivity.
As the government continues to ease lockdown restrictions in an attempt to salvage the economy, while still balancing risk-adjusted strategies aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, commuters returning to work have been left at the mercy of a dysfunctional public transport system.
Stringent health and safety protocols implemented to safeguard commuters have adversely impacted the taxi industry. While the government debates financial relief packages, the taxi industry, which has been consistently active during the limited lockdown commute, finds itself in a state of severe flux.
Limitations on passenger capacity, coupled with months of economic idleness during Level 5 and 4 lockdown, have thrown the taxi industry into fierce financial distress. In an attempt to recoup lost revenue, some taxi organisations have called for dramatic fare increases. Other associations have promised to implement provincial shut downs aimed at forcing governmental assistance.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who, on Thursday, addressed the media on issues concerning drivers’ licence testing centres and the state of South Africa’s public transport system, criticised exorbitant taxi fare increases and protest plans. Mbalula said:
“You can’t have a taxi fare that is raised to the point of 300%. That is exploitation and that is not fair. Should the taxi fares be raised, they should be fair and they must speak to inflation and also acknowledge the state of affairs.”Mbalula added that, as a pillar of the public transport sector, taxis were duty-bound to provide affordable transportation services.
Speaking to government’s economic reopening strategy, Mbalula noted that the pressure on the public transport sector would intensify as more South Africans returned to work. In this way, the transport minister revealed that resurrecting the country’s rail services would play a pivotal role in ensuring socioeconomic sustainability.
MetroRail, which is estimated to service over 2 million commuters on a daily basis, has been inoperative since lockdown was first instated in late March. Serious logistical concerns regarding health and safety protocols on trains and around stations have plagued the reimplementation of rail services.
Mbalula noted that the government was proactively seeking solutions to get trains back on track. The transport minister added that MetroRail was anticipated to resume services on 1 July, saying:
“We are in preparation to open up the rail space on 1 July and we are on course with regards to that. That will complement the taxi industry.”Mbalula reiterated the call for compliance from all public transport operators and commuters, pointing to the consistent use of face masks as a non-negotiable.
-The South African
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