Pretoria - The number of fatal collisions involving trains and vehicles at the railway level crossings have declined in the current financial year.
Deputy Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga made the announcement on Tuesday during the level-crossing safety campaign hosted by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) at Koelenhof Level-Crossing, Stellenbosch on Monday.
“Level crossings incidents generally result in serious collisions due to the impact of the train on the road vehicles.
“Even though the number of these collisions accounts for a very small percentage of the overall incidents within the rail network, the number of fatalities as a result of such an incident in very high.
“As a result of this RSR has focused on these incidents and we saw during the year under review a 26.6 percent reduction in collisions between trains and road vehicles at Level Crossings,” she said.
The Deputy Minister said during the year under review there was a reduction of 11 percent on all derailments and this contributed to the reduction in overall rail occurrence costs for Transnet Freight Rail (TFR).
Nationally, the RSR recorded 123 occurrences / accidents in 2011/12 with 10 fatalities and 40 injuries. 91 occurrences were recorded nationally for 2012/13.
The RSR recorded 17 level-crossing incidents on the 2011/12 State of Safety Report in the Western Cape with 2 fatalities and 6 injuries.
The preliminary results in 2012/13 financial year include 20 occurrences with no fatalities and 13 injuries.
The industry experienced 2 375 injuries and 425 fatalities as a result of both operations and security incidents.
Chikunga said when a person is struck by a train nobody notices, adding that when two or three people die in passenger or goods trains accidents at level crossings nobody says anything.
“It is unacceptable that communities only start taking notice when a sizeable number of our people are involved in these unnecessary and avoidable accidents.
“It is time that we each ask what can each of us do for this country to curb this silent killer. Time for action is now, we must all unite our efforts, obey that railway safety rules and reduce these needless accidents,” she said.
There was also a 21 percent increase and 10.6 percent increase in malicious damage (vandalism) and rolling stock fires respectively.
“This is of great concern to the to the Department and RSR as this increases delays in running of service by operators and contributes to the overall overcrowding of the passenger rail system during peak hours,” she said.
Deputy Minister Chikunga said the Koelenhof Level-Crossing is on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) line and has recorded a high number of incidents in the past 3-10 years.
As a direct ramification of this, she said PRASA has identified it as one of the crossings that will be eliminated in the near future.
“Transporting people and goods safely on our railways is a priority of government to enhance social and economic activities to be carried out.
“Incidents that have been recorded at this crossing are mainly attributable to motorists’ behaviour and this often happens during the off-peak period,” she said.
As part of interventions to mitigate these kinds of incidents, the RSR developed the Level Crossing Standard and continues to conduct information sessions nationally on all operators.
Given the increasing trend in level-crossing incidents over the years, the RSR has determined that a proactive, holistic and integrated approach to rail safety is needed.
This approach requires the involvement of all rail stakeholders which includes the Department, rail operators and the general public.
Level-crossings are safety sensitive zones where road and rail interface with the public and laws governing such areas should be respected.
The Level Crossing campaign comprises two slogans: “Always expect a train”, and “Where there is a track, there is a train”.
Chikunga said these will be used for the roll-out of a broad public outreach and educational activities to foster safe behaviour and safe communities.
The messages emphasise that a train could be using the railroad tracks at any time and that both pedestrians and drivers should always approach them with caution.
The RSR is urging drivers and pedestrians to follow all regulations regarding level-crossings and railroad safety, as not adhering to these could lead to severe injuries or a devastating loss of life as we have experienced in the past. - SAnews.gov.za