High levels of vandalism severely affecting rail services across the regions


10 January 2020


The Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (PRASA) is experiencing unprecedented levels of vandalism across all the regional Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl services resulting in massive disruption to commuter services.


According to PRASA security, mass vandalism of electrical wires and the destruction of PRASA infrastructure has resulted in vast sections being closed down due to lack of electrical lines. This, with ongoing modernisation of stations and other related infrastructure has forced Metrorail, the rail operator, to severely scale back its service with some corridors being completely closed at various regions.





The region is experiencing severe vandalism of Overhead Traction Wires resulting to pantograph hookups that disrupt electrical feeds to the train. All service lines have been affected with customers encouraged to only purchase single travel tickets due to disruptions in the service.



In November 2019 the region was forced to suspend two of its three Central services, the Cape Town - Chris Hani (Khayelitsha) service and Cape Town - Kapteinsklip (Mitchells Plain). The services were decimated by the continued theft of rail components and immeasurable damage to essential infrastructure, in particular, overhead electrical lines making it difficult to render a safe service.

The Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain services remain suspended indefinitely. An estimated date of reinstatement is as yet undetermined and is expected to be in the medium to long term basis.



This corridor is also plagued by vandalism. The railway lines are operable but subject to speed restrictions, manual authorisations and other operational working methods resulting in longer travel times.



Westrand train service arrangements:


  • NORMAL SERVICE – Between Johannesburg and Randfontein with minor reported incidents of theft at Roodepoort substation, Vereeniging via Midway is operating on a single line working between Mlamlankunzi and Nancefield.
  • Approximately 60 minutes Johannesburg – Naledi running via Laanglagte due to hookup at Longdale. Only 2 train will be running instead of 6. Train delays anticipate due to single line working between Naledi and Croesus as a result of a hookup and the New Canada Commissioning points are clamped which offers no flexibility.
  • NO SERVICE - Naledi – Westgate, Naledi - Faraday, Naledi –Johannesburg via George Coch due to the overhead theft.


Tshwane train service arrangement:


  • Pienaarspoort- Single line working between Pretoria and Koedoespoort due to overhead cable theft
  • Saulsville- Single line working due to overhead cable theft and damaged Siemens signal cable installation as part of Modernisation.
  • Hercules- Koedoespoort - Shuttle Service.
  • Mabopane/Belle Ombre/ Pretoria- No Service due to overhead, signal and perway equipment theft. Overhead hanging wires has been removed and the line will be operated with a diesel locomotive until the material is received.
  • DeWildt - No Service due to overhead, signal and perway equipment theft.


Eastrand train service arrangements:


  • NO SERVICE - Daveyton – Springs, Springs - Nigel and Pretoria - Johannesburg corridors due to theft of overhead cables. Teams are hard at work to re-instate Daveyton and Springs services as from Monday the 13 January 2020.
  • Trains from Leralla line will turn around at Germiston.
  • An electrical shuttle service will run between Johannesburg and Elandsfontein on the up slow line.
  • Diesel traction shuttle service of Pretoria trains between Pretoria and Elandsfontein
  • Approximately 50 minutes train delays anticipate due to single line working between Germiston and Johannesburg as a result of overhead cable theft and signal boxes.
  • Cable theft between Randwater and Kliprivier. Trains will run on a single line with speed not exceeding 15 km/h between Union and Randwater.




In response to the ongoing disruption of services, PRASA has implemented various interventions aimed at alleviating the delays and cancellation of services.

  • Diesel locomotives will be deployed in areas with no overhead power to run trains.
  • Security deployments have been updated to focus on the high-crime hotspots.
  • All procurement contracts for the procurement of spares and other critical services are being expedited to shorten the waiting period.


Passenger rail services are facing a bleak start of the year with most services cancelled or temporarily suspended until the problem is under control “A functional electrical line is critical in delivering a reliable service. As it stands now, our electrical lines are being vandalised and stolen creating an unpredictable operational pattern for both ourselves as the service providers and customers. The enormity of the task to rebuild substations and related support infrastructure cannot be underestimated, there simply are no quick fixes” said Mr Zwelakhe Mayaba, Acting PRASA Rail CEO.


PRASA has been forced to change its scheduling of trains and in most cases cancel the service due the extent of the vandalism “PRASA apologises to its commuters for all these issues affecting its service delivery due to unprecedented criminality on our system. We have and continue to prioritise customer satisfaction however, the environment we operate it is marred by ongoing vandalism. Vast amounts of money have been spent in repairing the infrastructure only to have thieves return, armed to the teeth in most cases to harvest our infrastructure. Our current interventions will only succeed if there is a change in the public’s perception that PRASA assets are critical to the functioning of passenger rail service” said Mr Mayaba.



Committed to delivering high quality passenger service on sustainable bases


+27 12 748 7000