‘Planless’ Prasa continues court battle over safety permit

Metrorail trains. Picture: ANA

Metrorail trains. Picture: ANA

‘Prasa supplied nothing new. No solutions. No new ideas’ to the Rail Safety Regulator in an urgent meeting, the DA’s shadow transport minister says.

The Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) court battle over the RSR’s refusal to issue Prasa with a safety permit is expected to enter its second day today.

The court action – initiated on Sunday after the regulator refused to back down – came after the failure of a meeting between the two boards to try and resolve the matter.

“The objective of the meeting was to get to the bottom of what the [Prasa] board is doing to fix this state-owned entity [SOE] and what they are doing to reduce the continued train crashes that are taking place almost weekly now,” said the DA’s shadow transport minister, Manny de Freitas.

“I had naively thought that Prasa had at least a plan so that the RSR would be convinced to change their ruling.”

De Freitas said the presentation by Prasa left him “more despondent and depressed than ever before”.

“Prasa supplied nothing new. No solutions. No new ideas.

“The multiparty portfolio committee were united in their criticism of the board. We all agree that they need to address the issues confronting us today,” said De Freitas.

He noted the current rail system was dangerous, constantly late and not fit to solve the serious issues faced by South African cities and its commuters.

“In 2009, buses transported about 1.2 million people to work and today just over 1.4 million. In comparison, trains carried 2.7 million people in 2008 while trains today transport only 1.2 million people a day.

“In fact, Prasa lost nearly 60% of their clients in 20 years, mostly in the last five years. This, despite an increasing population and millions being added to the work force,” De Freitas said.

At risk are nearly two million commuters who use Prasa’s trains on a daily basis countrywide. It would also affect the freight industry.

The RSR notified Prasa of its intention to revoke Prasa’s safety permit following a train-to-train collision last week near Van Riebeeck Park Station in Kempton Park during manual authorisation in which more than 300 people were injured.

“Of the total number of manual authorisations, more than 33% [165 488] instances are as a result of continued vandalism of signalling equipment and theft of signalling cables,” said Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani in a statement.

“These sustained attacks on rail infrastructure have reached unprecedented levels with our employees in some instances being physically harmed by criminals.”

Train accidents so far this year

  • January 4 – More than 200 people injured and 18 killed when a truck went through a level crossing ahead of a train in Kroonstad, Free State. DNA tests were used to identify the deceased.
  • January 10 – Up to 226 people injured when two trains collided at the Geldenhuys station in Germiston.
  • April 27 – Seven people in a bakkie die trying to beat a train at the same level crossing where 10 children died when taxi driver Jacob Humphreys tried to do the same.
  • May 12 – Four people in a Toyota Corolla killed after it drove in front of a goods train at a level crossing between Boons and Magaliesburg in the North West.
  • September 4 – About 100 people injured in a collision between two passenger trains at the Eloff extension in Selby, Johannesburg.
  • October 4 – More than 300 people injured when a moving train smashed into a stationary train at Van Riebeeck Park Station in Kempton Park.

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