Saturday, January 10, 2015
It's got a lot worse since I last rode those rails . . .
I remember South African commuter rail; the line between Cape Town and Simonstown, from Soweto into Johannesburg, and between Pretoria and Johannesburg. I've no idea how many thousands of miles I've ridden over them, but it's got to be well into five figures.
The trains between Soweto and Johannesburg were always over-full, with riders so tightly jammed into the vestibules that the pneumatically-operated sliding doors weren't able to close. The drivers used to shrug and carry on, even though now and again someone would lose their grip and fall out of the open doors. This was Africa, after all. Life was cheap. Later, during the politically-inspired frenzy of violence preceding South Africa's first fully democratic elections in 1994, gangs of thugs would attack travelers with assegais and pangas, cutting, slashing and stabbing at random, causing many to jump from moving trains in a desperate attempt to save themselves. It wasn't a good time to ride that line; and when I had to do so, you can bet I was armed and ready for trouble.
What brought back these memories was a link at 3 Boxes Of BS to an article titled 'Some Commuters Have a Really Tough Life'. It contains 30 pictures of dangerously overcrowded and jam-packed commuting experiences in various cities around the world. One of them is this photograph of a commuter train on the Soweto-Johannesburg line.
How the driver's supposed to see where he's going, I have no idea! It looks like the crowding's got even worse since I was last on that line. The trains were old and decrepit even then, and they also appear to have deteriorated. I guess there's no money to upgrade them.
The article's an interesting read, with its pictures from around the world. It makes Nashville traffic look quite bearable by comparison!