Rail & Commuter Safety pilot project update: Western Cape Government working Better Together

Joint Media Release by the Western Cape Government,

Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato

Minister of Transport & Public Works, Donald Grant

Metrorail Regional Manager, Richard Walker:

In keeping with our continued commitment to improving safety for public transport commuters, the Western Cape Government, in partnership with various stakeholders including Metrorail Western Cape and the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID), initiated the ‘Safety Partnership’ programme.

Part of the programme has included pilot projects at both the Bellville and Parow transport interchanges, in a bid to enhance safety for the many commuters who rely on public transport to get to and from their various destinations.

The Western Cape is vulnerable to declining levels of safety for rail commuters, necessitating the need for this pilot safety project that we believe has the potential to be a safety multiplier at train stations across the province. Together, we remain committed to ensuring that the people of the Western Cape are safe while travelling through the various public transport nodes, particularly rail.

We are pleased with the progress of the rail safety pilot project, and work being done by the additional security personnel and our Chrysalis Graduates to promote safety at both the Parow and Bellville Station, and look forward to a decline in the number of incidents as the project continues.

The agreement, another first for the Western Cape, aims to support the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) in their focus to enhance the safety of commuters at the Bellville and Parow transport interchanges.

As part of the agreement with the VRCID, and in partnership with Metrorail, the possibility of an additional 200 highly visible safety personnel, as a force multiplier to existing security and law enforcement officers, is currently being piloted. They will be deployed on trains and train stations in the Western Cape. A total of 50 Chrysalis graduates are currently deployed as Commuter Safety Ambassadors (CSA’s) by the VRCID and Metrorail to assist in enhancing the safety of commuters at Bellville, Tygerburg and Parow Stations.

Thus far, the graduates have assisted in confiscating numerous homemade dangerous weapons, have identified problem areas like illegal trading, theft, and littering, and have recovered more than 150 retail trolleys. Their general presence has assisted in creating a safer environment. The graduates have also proven valuable while assisting in the joint operations between the SAPS and VRCID. Their assistance has included protecting SAPS vehicles against vandalism while the SAPS Officials and VRCID conduct raids.

As CSA’s, the Graduates also provide visible safety enforcement on trains to assist existing Metrorail safety efforts. These safety activities include addressing issues of alcohol abuse, smoking, train jumping, access control at stations and platforms, platform passenger safety, as well as passenger safety in general.

This is a pilot phase that, if shown to be successful, will see the Department of Community Safety apply for additional funding from the Department of Transport and Public Works to expand the current operations.

Railway systems function within our communities and will reflect the social problems in each locality. When crime becomes a problem in a community, it will inevitably spill over into train stations and trains. When the crime profiles of Bellville and Parow are compared, it is important to note that both experienced severe increases in crimes typically committed at the two interchanges. When comparing the 2009/10 crime statistics to 2013/14 figures, the increases become shockingly clear:

  • Robbery common – 180% increase for Belville and 241% increase for Parow;
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances – 93% increase for Bellville and 70% increase for Parow; and
  • Theft out of motor vehicle – 53% increase for Bellville and 82% increase for Parow.

The Chrysalis graduates have been deployed to the VRCID & Metrorail stations since April 2015 to assist with general safety and security duties. In total, 40 graduates have been provided to Metrorail and 10 Graduates to the VRCID.

The graduates deployed to the VRCID receive regular on-the-job training from the VRCID operational staff from a Law Enforcement, security, and urban management perspective. In addition, the graduates assist the VRCID in conducting daily cleaning and safety operations within the VRCID area, under the direct supervision of the VRCID Deputy Security Manager and the Operations Manager.

We are excited to see more positive results from this pilot safety project, and will continuously monitor the impact that these safety interventions have in areas so as to guide the further implementation of more evidence-based safety interventions that we can roll out more widely at a later stage. Metrorail applauds the initiative and encourages more neighbourhoods to explore the different ways we can all help to make our communities safer.

There have been numerous incidents of violence and criminal activity at stations, where people have been stabbed, mugged, and intimidated, particularly when they travel at night. This is not an acceptable situation which we must continue to address through collaborative projects like this one.

This pilot safety project embraces what is meant when we say that ‘Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility’ and that by building effective partnerships through targeted interventions we are working Better Together – as different spheres of government, parastatals, government departments, organisations and communities at large – to realise a whole-of-society approach in creating safer environments.