Those of you who live in the area or use the Kenilworth Road on a regular basis are probably very aware that the booms are currently not working. This has been the case since the end of 2018 and the crossing is currently manned by flag-bearing marshalls who stop the traffic when a train is approaching the level crossing. These marshalls work in shifts from 06h00 and to date there have been no major incidents on their watch.
Whilst there are obvious safety concerns that have been voiced by those using the crossing, it seems that most people are quite happy not having the booms closed during peak times as it has made getting to school and work faster and has eased traffic tailbacks along the road. Whilst closing the booms for hours is not ideal, the general consensus is that working booms would be welcome as there is no signage saying that the booms are unoperational and because not every driver obeys the stop sign it could result in a collision with a train or being rear-ended if you do stop at the stop sign!
The other problem is that the trains now hoot when approaching the station and the screeching of brakes can be heard for miles. A resident in 1st Avenue has been having a particularly torrid time, saying “The constant sound of screeching brakes is terrible, over and above some trains sitting outside our house for long periods of time, resulting in some train passengers jumping off and walking on the train tracks. One also often gets verbally abused and whistled at by people on the trains if you are in your front garden. So, it’s been a pretty horrific experience for us.”
Is there any light at the end of the line? While PRASA and Metrorail are aware of the situation, it seems it may take a while to fix it. According to Riana Scott, spokesperson for Metrorail, the booms were damaged by continuous vandalism and the level crossing mechanism and booms ARE in the process of being replaced with new technology.
The replacement mechanism and technology will be similar to the Albertyn Road version (LED flashlights and four half arm booms with fibre for communication) and will cost approximately R1.8 million.
However, in order for the replacement to happen, PRASA and Metrorail need to procure contractors compliant with Treasury regulations and PRASA Supply Chain Policy and the anticipated lead time to procure material, installation, testing and commissioning is around three months. On top of that, a commissioning date can only be set after the procurement process is complete. In the meantime, a temporary closure of the level crossing for motorists will be discussed with the City of Cape Town.
As PRASA and Metrorail are unable to give a date as to when the level crossing mechanism and booms are actually going to be replaced and it is unknown as to whether the discussion with City of Cape Town has yet taken place, perhaps all we need to do is what the signs says and actually stop at the level crossing and check for trains before proceeding.
“International police statistics show that up to 95 per cent of crashes at railway crossings are caused by driver error. This is largely attributable to inattention, driver distraction, risk-taking, and disobeying a lack of knowledge of the road rules. In almost every case that the motorist failed to stop and give way to the train at the level crossing and that there was little the train driver could do to prevent the collision or minimise its effects. Our train drivers are at every incident heavily traumatised since they are helpless and is pleading that motorists are taking double care when crossing the rails.” – Arrive Alive
Many residents have very fond memories of Kenilworth Station. Read their memories as they reminisce about it being clean and safe and how the immaculate trains ran on time.
And did you know? The Kenilworth Station was originally a simple shed. Here is the background story of the history of the line, the trains and the stations.