Posted on March 12, 2008

Human Excrement Delays Trains

Babalo Ndenze, Cape Times(Cape Town), March 11, 2008

Human excrement and illegal electrical connections running beneath railway tracks in Metrorail’s Central Line, are causing major train delays and malfunctions, says Metrorail’s regional executive after visiting stations there.

Nyanga station, its surrounds and the stretch of railway between Nolungile and Nonkqubela stations in Khayelitsha came under the spotlight for encroachments on to the railway tracks by people living in informal settlements.

According to Metrorail’s Blits publication, residents are forced to dump their excrement on to the railway line, due to the lack of amenities in informal settlements.

“As a result of the waste seeping into the ballast stone supporting the tracks, insufficient power is generated to operate trains.

“Trains either have to slow down at the section, or worse, are prevented from travelling across these tracks in some instances.

“The acid waste, over time, corrodes the track metal and causes further service interruptions as electrical components malfunction,” it read.

Metrorail said the communities on one side of the railway line were serviced by Eskom, but those on the other side had no service, and as a result they made illegal connections through railway tracks to get electricity.

“This is especially dangerous as wires are unprotected, insecure and laid through wet waste. The unsavoury conditions pose a health risk to the public and to Metrorail employees.

“Operations and maintenance staff are particularly affected. Authorities are concerned for communities. Young children and toddlers especially are vulnerable, living in the settlement.”

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said its executive would make a follow-up visit to the affected sites on Saturday.

“The medium-term plan is to clear the area up. There are contractors on site but until they get relocated they are being asked to put the waste elsewhere,” said Scott.

She said the long-term solution would be to move all the residents, with the help of the city, to a fully serviced site.

“But in the interim, the solution is to keep the areas clean.”

Trains will be closely monitored in the affected areas until the communities are formally relocated.