Station vendors suffering due to railway suspension

Railway station vendors are finding it harder to make a living since PRASA stopped the trains on its central line. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Vendors that trade at central line stations say that the suspension of the railway service has negatively affected them.

Vendors trading at different train stations on Cape Town’s central line that has been suspended since November last year say that their businesses have been heavily affected and are uncertain about their future. The central line between Cape Town and Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain was suspended due to cable theft near Bonteheuwel. At a press conference yesterday, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) administrator, Bongisizwe Mpondo, told reporters that they have a recovery plan that will see a limited service restored by September this year and the full service by April 2021.

Amanda Sidimba who sells snacks and secondhand clothes at Nyanga station in Gugulethu said that her business has been heavily affected because there are no more hordes of customers from the trains. “I have been based at this station since around 1999 and this is the longest suspension and it has negatively affected my business,” she said.

Fruit and vegetables vendor, Loyiso Mhlakaza, said his business has taken a knock from the suspension. Mhlakaza, who also has a business at Philippi station, said that he is considering closing shop because he is no longer making profit. “The only thing that is saving my business at Nyanga station is the nearby shopping centre, the Nyanga Junction. There is no shopping centre near Philippi station so it’s really bad there,” he said.

Gilbert Rhoda who sells fruit and vegetables at Kapteinsklip station in Mitchells Plain also said that his business has suffered. “The business is suffering because of the train suspension. I now make a loss of about R100 in profit a day,” Rhoda said.

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“We are not making profit anymore; my fruit and vegetable business that I started around 1989 is suffering. It is becoming more difficult to even buy basic stuff for my house from the business since the suspension of the central line,” said Mbulelo Tshoko who trades at the Khayelitsha station.

Philiswa Cebisa has been selling home cooked meals at Nyanga station since 2012. Her business has also been hit hard. “The central line being suspended has made my income drop. I am no longer making a profit anymore. It’s now about just making money to put food on the table. Remember when we had customers we knew that in the morning peak hour we will be making a huge profit. A customer will buy a vetkoek that has liver for breakfast and buy another item for lunch. In the evening the customer will come and buy supper for two and I can easily make R60. Now it’s difficult,” she said.

Speaking at the press briefing, Western Cape regional manager for PRASA, Richard Walker, said that the central line has a market share of between 40 and 45% and the railway company is also suffering due to the suspension.

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