Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) is under siege from criminal gangs who are stealing kilometres of overhead and signal cables that are causing train derailments and delays.
The wanton thefts of cables have dire consequences such as trains colliding or coming off the rails. They also disrupt the smooth running of the rail services.
Over the past week, TFR said it has experienced a surge in cable thefts and vandalism across its network.
“In just 14 days, TFR has experienced 152 cable theft incidents resulting in over 40km of cable lost,” said the rail service in a statement.
“These incidents often appear to be well-coordinated and planned to cause maximum disruption.
“The theft and vandalism of our infrastructure is often carried out by large groupings of 20-25 people, who are often armed and not hesitant to use force to commit these crimes.”
TFR said the recent spike in incidents was quite alarming.
“The peak being six incidents within a 14-hour period in one of our corridors,” said TFR.
“Criminals are targeting overhead and signaling cables which are essential to the efficient running of our trains.”
The impact of these theft incidents has resulted in TFR having to suspend trains causing delays in the delivery of goods.
“Safety is also of significant concern for us; missing and damaged infrastructure can pose danger to the driver of the train as the system becomes unstable,” said TFR.
“Derailments are often a direct consequence of the theft as occurred in the Pretoria area on 01 September 2021. Luckily, no one was injured in that incident.”
Speaking on the latest theft incidents, Sizakele Mzimela, TFR chief executive, said: “TFR is simply under attack from brazen criminals seeking to undermine not only our business, but our customers and our county at large.
“While we are deploying all our resources to fighting this scourge, it is clear that we need a long-term, sustainable industry solution to this challenge.
“These incidents are crippling to our business and hinder our ability to deliver to our customers.
“We urge anyone that may have information to come forward to their nearest police station.”
Transnet also encourages members of the community to report any suspicious activities using an anonymous hotline number 0800 003 056 or email email@example.com or to call the Crime Stop hotline number on 086 0010111.
Callers may remain anonymous and that all information will be treated with confidentiality.