Regulator instructs Prasa to halt train operations
● 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.”