In a recent media statement, the rail operator Metrorail, outlined 30 ways in which it says it has improved the rail service over 30 weeks, since the start of a radical service improvements drive. Are these improvements enough and are they a visible and significant difference?
- In striving for service excellence, train windows have been replaced at a total cost R417,944 for temporary windows and R717,600 on permanent windows.
- Eight speed restrictions have been removed, contributing to punctuality.
- A comprehensive programme of re-instating critical assets destroyed by vandalism or lost to theft/malicious damage will cost a further R7.9m.
- Last month, Prasa Rail launched its nationwide National Passenger Safety Campaign in Cape Town.
- The campaign comprises the introduction of platform marshals at 7 key stations.
- Safety branded coaches, continuous safety campaigns in communities and at schools contribute to public safety consciousness and promotes a zero-tolerance approach to ill-disciplined commuters.
- Closer working relationships with provincial and local public transport authorities will see Metrorail becoming a signatory to a Memorandum of Action; detailing 10 areas of collaborative initiatives to improve commuting conditions.
- A 24 hour maintenance regime demanded revised shift working which yielded impressive results.
- Train cancellations have dropped to below 1%.
- Punctuality has improved from 72% to 83%; still below the region’s target of a consistent 90%. Swartz pointed out that frequently the region was able to reach and exceed 90%: ‘Prasa Technical now focuses on sustaining and improving this performance’.
- Commuters raised concerns about the lack of alternative transport during service disruptions. To address this, dedicated buses are deployed at key strategic areas to shorten reaction time.
- Three train-sets are also stabled at Nyanga, Retreat and Kraaifontein as back-ups.
- Security concerns have been addressed through the introduction of more than 100 extra Protection Services Officials.
- Sixty platform marshals are currently in place.
- A crime prevention strategy of reactive and proactive deployment has resulted in a 40% reduction in crime.
- The strategy resulted in a string of recent arrests and successful convictions. Isolated flare ups have been swiftly and successfully eradicated.
- Vandalism remains a challenge due to poor socio-economic conditions and high unemployment in communities adjacent to railway lines.
- Target hardening measures, protection of assets with data dot technology an asset protection in staging yards have contributed to improved punctuality.
- The imminent integration of surveillance capability with the City will also be advantageous
- Revised working hours;
- Special employee task teams; and
- Tighter management controls ensured that fare revenue leakage was contained.
- Maintenance conducted after hours/weekends and reliability returned to the service.
- All 85 train-sets have been returned to service, with all available spare train-sets in place in case of emergencies.
- Revenue enhancement strategies such as Top 10 Station focus and intensified ticket verification through Employee Task Teams and Stop & Detrain Actions have netted an additional R51m to date, a 13.9% improvement on the last financial year.
- Extended operating hours and increased supervision have reduced revenue leakage. Swartz maintains that fare evasion is not excessive: ‘In an open system like ours, effective manual verification remains a challenge. The current ticket issuing system is redundant technology, antiquated and inflexible/rigid’.
- All 85 train-sets allocated to the region are operational, spare capacity have been augmented by two additional train-sets.
- A recently-introduced train shuttle between Nyanga – Cape Town alleviates peak hour crush in the Metro South East corridor.
- Lack of accurate and accessible timetables have been addressed through the introduction of a new mobile train information system. Go Metro is a mobile service that provides easy-to-use train schedules, a trip planner and fare calculator on www.gometro.co.za. General information like route maps, terms & conditions of travel, tourist & business services are also on hand. The site is regularly updated with changes to the scheduled service, reflects average delays per service corridor and daily maintenance programme. Swartz says this solution is particularly appropriate as a recent survey confirmed that 92% of regional rail commuters have mobile phones and can benefit from this new service.
- Productivity gains have been made by improved attendance, reduction in unproductive overtime, reduced absenteeism and sick leave. The recent appointment of a regional human resources executive will ensure that appropriate training and development of employees will receive renewed attention.
Image courtesy of mikecogh at flickr.com
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