The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is likely to have another serious train accident to deal with soon, the United National Transport Union (Untu) warned yesterday.
Untu general secretary Steve Harris said the safety of passenger trains was deteriorating so much that “it is only a question of time before we see yet another serious accident”.
Harris added that train hijackings in Gauteng are increasing, but Prasa had kept quiet about it.
“Train drivers are trained on specific routes. Before they drive a new route, they undergo training. When commuters force a driver to go on a route unknown to him or her, the train driver is driving blind. They don’t know where there are signals, a turn or a steep curve. When forced to drive like this, they can easily derail the train which could result in fatalities,” said Harris.
The situation had worsened after the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), the train safety watchdog, allowed Prasa to operate trains with manual authorisation on condition the speed did not increase more than 30km per hour.
This was a safety measure after the RSR found human error was to blame for two collisions in the East Rand within six months when manual authorisation was used.
“Prasa is unable to replace all its broken signals and do away with manual authorisation due to constant criminal activities and vandalism of the rail infrastructure. The SA Police Service lacks the expertise to combat copper theft by international crime syndicates who target rail infrastructure because it’s such a soft target.”