Cable theft a contributor to train crash

Forensic patholigists enter the scene of a train collision in Elandsfontein in Johannesburg East that left one man dead and 102 people injured on 1 June 2017. The collision was due to improper signalling as a result of cable theft, and apart from injuries left many commuters stranded. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia

Human error may be to blame as manual authorisation is being used to control routes.

Yesterday’s train collision in Elandsfontein, between Johannesburg and Pretoria, which left one person dead and more than 100 injured, may have been due to human error.

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) said yesterday it was conducting the investigation and would have a preliminary report by Monday.

Acting Gauteng Metrorail spokesperson Tony Games said yesterday that due to cable theft along the route, the trains were being “manually authorised” to continue along their routes.

According to Games, passenger train T0601 was travelling from Pretoria to Johannesburg when an empty train, T1817, pulled out of a siding onto the same line as T0601, causing a devastating side impact. The injured were taken to the OR Tambo Memorial, Tembisa, Arwyp, Edenvale, Rose Acres, Zamokuhle and Germiston hospitals, “which are giving medical care and treatment to the injured commuters”, said Gauteng Metrorail acting provincial manager Goodman Matampi.

“We are investigating the reasons why he [the dead man] was on board a train that was not in service,” said Matampi.

“Metrorail Gauteng sincerely regrets the loss of life and conveys its sincere condolences to the family of the deceased. We appreciate the support from the SA Police and Ekurhuleni emergency services, including our technical teams.”

This is the second accident of this type this year.

On February 20, a head-on collision at Lynross station, in Pretoria, left up to 200 people injured with minor to serious wounds.

“The preliminary investigation revealed that the primary cause of the occurrence was due to two trains being manually authorised on to the same railway line,” the RSR found.

“Shortly before the accident, there was a handover between two train control officers (TCO).

“The investigation found that there was no process in place for short hand-overs during shifts. This could have led to miscommunication between the two TCOs, which may have contributed.”

In 2014, Prasa committed to spending R5.6 billion, R1.8 billion in 2015/16, R1.8 billion in 2016-17 and R1.9 billion in 2017-18 on its signalling programme.

In its 2015/16 financial report, Prasa recorded 113 incidents of cable theft and 44 incidents of signal equipment theft.

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