Sunday Times

Reg­u­la­tor in­structs Prasa to halt train op­er­a­tions

- By ZINGISA MVUMVU Austria · Belgium · Belarus · Iceland

● The Rail­way Safety Reg­u­la­tor (RSR) has grounded the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA’s (Prasa’s) trains, cit­ing safety con­cerns.

Prasa has 48 hours to im­ple­ment the rail reg­u­la­tor’s direc­tive.

This comes days af­ter more than 300 peo­ple were in­jured when two trains col­lided at the Van Riebeeck Park Sta­tion near Kemp­ton Park late on Thurs­day.

The RSR said on Fri­day that it had ar­rived at the de­ci­sion to sus­pend Prasa’s safety li­cence be­cause the rail agency had failed to “ef­fec­tively con­trol the risks aris­ing from its rail­way op­er­a­tion to the detri­ment of the safety of its cus­tomers, staff, con­trac­tors, vis­i­tors and oth­ers who may be af­fected by its rail­way op­er­a­tions”.

This means that hun­dreds of thou­sands of train com­muters may be left in limbo as of to­mor­row should Prasa com­ply with the sus­pen­sion of its safety li­cence.

Prasa said yes­ter­day that it was un­fair of the RSR to ar­rive at such a de­ci­sion based on the Thurs­day train crash, which was still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“While Prasa ac­knowl­edges that the ac­tion taken by the RSR is within the man­date of the safety reg­u­la­tor, it must be noted that the train in­ci­dent hap­pened just over 48 hours ago and is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated through the nor­mal pro­cesses and struc­tures when such in­ci­dents oc­cur.

“A board of in­quiry has been es­tab­lished to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the ac­ci­dent, upon which a full re­port will be re­leased to the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties,” said Prasa spokesper­son Nana Ze­nani.

The rail reg­u­la­tor said its de­ci­sion was not in­flu­enced by Thurs­day’s ac­ci­dent.

In a let­ter sent to Prasa on Fri­day, RSR act­ing CEO Tshepo Kgare wrote that the rail agency’s safety li­cence had been sus­pended base on, among other things:

● The in­creas­ing num­ber of train col­li­sions as a di­rect re­sult of wrong­ful man­ual au­tho­ri­sa­tions, fur­ther com­pounded by Prasa not ad­her­ing to the direc­tive is­sued by the RSR, in­clud­ing the spe­cial con­di­tions at­tached to [Prasa’s] safety per­mit with re­spect to the pro­vi­sion of ad­e­quate su­per­vi­sion and coun­ter­sign­ing of man­ual train au­tho­ri­sa­tion;

● The ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of man­ual train au­tho­ri­sa­tions tak­ing place, which is in­dica­tive that Prasa’s main­te­nance regime is not im­prov­ing;

● Non-im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions of [the] boards of in­quiry re­lated to train-on-train col­li­sions, as mea­sured over a three-year pe­riod; and,

● The state of Prasa’s as­sets, as as­sessed by the RSR.

Prasa’s fail­ure to re­spond to the RSR’s note of in­tent to re­voke the rail agency’s safety li­cence had sealed its fate, said Kgare.

“Your safety per­mit is hereby sus­pended un­til such time that Prasa can ad­e­quately demon­strate that the direc­tive and spe­cial con­di­tions ... of your safety per­mit ... [have] been suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented,” Kgare wrote to Prasa’s man­age­ment.

Prasa has writ­ten back to the RSR, beg­ging the rail reg­u­la­tor to limit the safety li­cence sus­pen­sion “to the af­fected re­gion [Gaut­eng south], more specif­i­cally where the ac­ci­dent took place in Kemp­ton Park”.

Prasa board chair­per­son Khany­isile Kweyama said: “We are hop­ing that the safety reg­u­la­tor will give due con­sid­er­a­tion to the re­sponse to be pro­vided by man­age­ment, not­ing that Prasa was given a short time to re­spond.”

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