Working towards improving SA

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Department of Transport is set to engage its entities in an effort to ensure they are all focused on accelerating service delivery and making a difference in the lives of South Africans. 

“We will be announcing an action plan that will speed up change and transformation, particularly in untransformed industries in the transport sector for our first 400 days in office,” newly appointed Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said.

On Wednesday, the Minister released a statement on the preliminary report on the investigation of the incident involving one of the new PRASA trains and a Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) temping machine at Eerste fabrieke station in Tshwane. 

The incident took place on Saturday, resulting in 64 commuters and two crew members on the temping machine suffering minor to moderate injuries. They were treated at various hospitals and subsequently discharged. 

“The report concludes that the Transnet temping machine failed at the Greenview Station and lost its brakes causing it to accelerate on the track towards the Eerste fabrieke Station, where it collided with the stationary Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) train. Communication between the crew of the temping machine and the Centralised Train Control (CTC) centre failed.

“The report further notes that the signaling system between the Eerstefabrieke and Pienaarspoort stations has not been functional for approximately two years. This is a matter of serious concern due to the heightened risk of manual authorization,” Mbalula said.

The Minister said it is clear from the report that the train crew performed their duties with diligence, calm and professionalism and averted many more potential injuries.

He said he was concerned at a finding which alleged that commuters interfered with the safety operation of the train by activating the Passenger Emergency Alarm when the driver attempted to move the train backwards to avoid collision. 

“It is equally alarming to learn that passengers ignored the driver’s instruction to evacuate the train, resulting in injuries that could have been avoided. This should not be construed as apportioning any blame to those who were injured in the incident. 

“We wish them a speedy recovery and will do everything in our power to ensure that safety in our commuter rail environment improves in a sustainable way,” the Minister said.

The Minister encouraged the commuting public to respect all safety protocols within the railway environment. 

“We urge PRASA to expedite the Board of Inquiry on this incident and we will ensure that decisive action is taken to ensure that there is no repeat of such an occurrence,” he said.

He said the last State of Railway Safety Report published by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) paints an unflattering picture of safety performance in the county's railways. 

“In 2017/2018 a total number of 1027 incidents of collisions during movement of rolling stock were reported by the RSR. This represented a 2% increase from the previous year. This is cause for alarm and must spur us into action to arrest this situation,” the Minister said. –