Cape Town Station will be the first station in the country to offer free wi-fi to commuters. According to Metrorail Western Cape Manager Mthuthuzeli Swartz, the wi-fi roll-out will be part of their strategy to improving its services and giving its commuters something fun to do while they wait for their trains. The rail operator is also planning to unveil a mobile app that will allow commuters to track where a train is and keep abreast of any other problems or incidents that might cause delays. Two months ago Metrorail acquired R233 million to make immediate improvements to their service which had been plagued by train delays, safety problems and decaying infrastructure. The proposed wi-fi roll-out will be a pilot that will only be available on all southern line stations that stretch from Cape Town to Muizenberg. “The reason for this is because the southern line is the shortest distance from Cape Town,” says Mr Swartz.
The next phase would be getting the wi-fi on board the actual trains which would enable the commuter to track the performance of the train in real time while on board. There will however be a limit to the free megabytes a commuter is entitled to which would mean they would be required to buy more if the need arises. Head of Communications at Metrorail Riana Scott says the last issues relating to the project are being finalised and more information will be issued closer to the launch date in a few weeks.
Mr. Swartz says the proposed wi-fi roll out should not be seen as a sugar coat for annoying train delays that often plague their train services. “We intend to improve the safety and infrastructure decay through acquiring new trains and replacing old tracks as part of their turn around strategy,” he says. This is a really great move by the rail operator as data costs are exorbitant in South Africa and the free wi-fi will do the commuter good with the majority of them being students and the working class who don’t have much to splurge on purchasing data.
Train commuter Milisa Mhlungulwana from Mandalay says Metrorail’s focus is misplaced and they should be focusing on making sure that their trains are running effectively. “People are getting warnings for arriving late at work”. One hopes that the free wi-fi service will be better operational than their current service with the train delays. What is left to do now is for the commuter to patiently wait for the roll-out and the improvement in both the service and infrastructure as promised by the operator.