Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 17:28 UK

South African transport strike halts passenger trains

Man walks across railway

About two million South African train commuters have been left stranded as two major transport unions widened a strike which began last week.

The unions have called on their members working for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to stop working in a dispute over pay.

The vast majority of staff at Transnet - the country's main transporter of freight - are already on strike.

South Africa is preparing to host the World Cup, which starts on 11 June.

Nearly 12,000 members of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) are on strike at Prasa, disrupting local Metrorail and long-distance Shosholoza Meyl passenger rail services, the South African Press Association reports.

A Metrorail spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal province told Sapa that no trains were operating on Monday, leaving 180,000 passengers without transport.

The unions want a 16% pay rise for Prasa staff, while Prasa is offering an eight percent increase, Sapa says.

Last week, thousands of staff at Transnet went on strike, crippling rail and port services across the country.

Their dispute is also over pay.

Transnet transports thousands of tonnes of freight daily by train, as well as loading and unloading goods at South African ports.

Some 350,000 people are expected to visit South Africa for the World Cup - which is being held in Africa for the first time - and there are concerns the transport workers strike could disrupt the tournament.

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