Prasa responsible for fatal Mountainview collision – report

Train signalling systems are seen near Langlaagte Station, Johannesburg, 10 January 2019. Picture: Michel Bega

Train signalling systems are seen near Langlaagte Station, Johannesburg, 10 January 2019. Picture: Michel Bega

Accidents like these ‘indicate Prasa is in contravention of its own standard operating procedures as well as Railway Safety Regulator directives’.

The Railway Safety Regulator’s (RSR) preliminary report has laid the blame of Wednesday’s Mountainview train station at the feet of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

At least three people died and hundreds were injured in the rear-end collision.

“As accentuated before, accidents like these indicate that Prasa is in contravention of its own standard operating procedures, as well as the directives of the regulator,” stated the report.

“The RSR has consistently highlighted the risks inherent to prolonged periods of manual train authorisations and continues to compel Prasa to provide proper control and supervision of manual train authorisation.

“However, we keep on seeing a recurrence of incidents attributable to this method of operation.”

The report noted even after being issued with a court order to improve safety on its operations, “Prasa continues to demonstrate the highest levels of lethargy and disregard for rail safety in their operations”.

Dr Willem Sprong, the technical director for railway engineering at Gibb Engineering & Architecture, said in an interview with the SA Broadcasting Corporation shortly after the collision said it was déjà vu for him when he arrived at the scene.

“We were there on September 4 in Booysens, south of Johannesburg, when a similar accident occurred,” Sprong said. “We were there on October 6 at Van Riebeeck station on the East Rand when a similar accident occurred.

“It’s really sad to say again it was a failure of the signalling system.

“We don’t know yet what caused the failure and our safety net, which is supposed to be our manual authorisations, failed.”

Train signalling systems are seen near Croesus Station, 10 January 2019. Picture: Michel Bega

RSR’s preliminary report found the section from Pretoria North to Mountainview had been operating under manual authorisation since November.

“There was a breakdown in communication between the train control officer (TCO) and the train driver en route to the Pretoria Station,” the report stated.

“After the train driver repeated the authority incorrectly, the TCO acknowledged the incorrect authority. This resulted in the train entering the section between the Pretoria North and Mountainview station wrongfully.”

RSR also observed that due to the damage to the trains, the one coming into the station may have been travelling at a “considerable” speed.

“During times when trains are working abnormally, in particular when trains are manually authorised, trains are required to travel at a speed of 30km/h,” the report said.

The speed the train was travelling would be confirmed at a later stage.

Prasa spokesperson Nana Radebe said the organisation would issue a response today.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

today in print