New directive to reduce deaths on moving trains

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Johannesburg - The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has a new directive to ensure that incidents of commuters falling from moving trains as a result of unclosed doors will be a thing of the past.

"Over the last few years, our courts have been inundated with cases where individuals injured in the rail environment have sought relief, and a number of judgments handed down in this regard," the RSR said in a statement on Tuesday.

"As a custodian of safety in the railway environment and an organ of state, the Constitution and our founding legislation enjoins us to ensure that our people are free from harm in the railway environment," it said.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the parent company of Metrorail, was instructed to make sure that the doors of commuter trains were closed before departure from a station. 

It was also instructed that the doors must remain closed en route, and that should the doors be forced open while the train was in motion, the speed of the train must immediately be reduced to 20 km/h or less. 

"The directive requires the operator to consider the situation on the trains themselves, as well as station platform management, and commuter behaviour. 

"Should PRASA fail to comply with the directive, the Regulator is empowered to impose a number of penalties against the operator in terms of its enabling Act," the RSR said.

Last year, the number of incidents relating to open train doors according to RSR remained high. Over 74 incidents were reported where a commuter fell from inside a moving train, while 778 more incidents were reported about people who fell between the platform and a train. 

"These statistics remain alarming high, and this state of affairs further informs the drastic steps the Regulator intends to take in ensuring that there is a sustainable improvement of safety performance in our railways," said the RSR. 

These measures according to the RSR are not only intended to ensure the safety of commuters during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but also to ensure that safety in railways is a lasting legacy based on sustainable safety management systems. 

During this year, the RSR will also introduce monetary penalties which will be imposed on operators where such operators are found to be negligent or fail to comply with safety prescripts