Prasa’s death trap trains

As the Rail Safety Reg­u­la­tor or­ders Prasa to ad­dress an on­go­ing brake prob­lem, it has emerged the en­tity’s mul­ti­mil­lion-rand elec­tronic sig­nalling sys­tem is ‘gath­er­ing dust’.

The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Sipho Mabena [email protected]­i­

Rail Safety Reg­u­la­tor or­dered en­tity to sub­mit a cor­rec­tive plan.

Amulti­bil­lion-rand state-of-the-art elec­tronic train sig­nalling sys­tem is “gath­er­ing dust” at the sig­nalling nerve cen­tre in Gaut­eng of Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), as trains fer­ry­ing more than a mil­lion pas­sen­gers daily de­pended on a cum­ber­some man­ual sys­tem which has led to sev­eral crashes in the past.

The lat­est drama sur­round­ing Prasa comes on the back of the Rail Safety Reg­u­la­tor (RSR) or­der­ing the em­bat­tled en­tity to sub­mit a plan, by mid­night on Tues­day, on how it would per­ma­nently ad­dress the lack of brakes for trains in its Braam­fontein de­pot, which has re­sulted in tech­ni­cians al­legedly us­ing worn out brakes sal­vaged from bins as re­place­ments.

This was dis­cov­ered af­ter the reg­u­la­tor con­ducted a blitz in­spec­tion on the de­pot on 16 Jan­uary fol­low­ing a tip-off.

The reg­u­la­tor con­firmed re­ceipt of Prasa’s cor­rec­tive plan and that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched “on the brakes of train­sets to en­sure that it com­plies to the re­quire­ments and are safe to use”.

RSR spokesper­son Madelein Wil­liams said Prasa was not barred from run­ning trains af­ter the in­spec­tion but that a di­rec­tive was is­sued that the agency had no brake blocks avail­able or in stock.

“The RSR are thus of the view that should brakes have to be re­placed, Prasa would not be in a po­si­tion to do so due to the lack of spares. Prasa was, there­fore, in­structed to sup­ply the RSR with a cor­rec­tive ac­tion plan de­tail­ing how they will ad­dress the lack of spares,” she said.

The reg­u­la­tor shot down calls to re­lease the cor­rec­tive plan, say­ing it was not for “pub­lic con­sump­tion” de­spite the fact that it im­pacted on the safety of com­muters.

Prasa spokesper­son Nana Ze­nani did not re­spond to ques­tions de­spite an un­der­tak­ing to do so.

Mean­while, man­ual sig­nalling, blamed for ac­ci­dents and de­lays, once again came un­der the spot­light, with the Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA) say­ing the num­ber of both had dras­ti­cally in­creased and that there was no proper in­ter­ven­tion.

“Metro­rail’s safety lev­els are way be­low stan­dard. If it were an air­line, it would have been long grounded,” said DA’s spokesper­son on trans­port, Chris Hun­singer.

He said the hi-tech sys­tem in Ger­mis­ton has be­come a “white ele­phant” be­cause of is­sues with in­ter­fac­ing the elec­tronic and man­ual sys­tem.

Hun­singer said this meant there was a prob­lem with bridg­ing the elec­tronic sys­tem with the in­fra­struc­ture of the man­ual op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

He said this re­sulted in the drop in safety stan­dards and has led to the RSR au­tho­ri­sa­tion of the cum­ber­some man­ual sig­nalling sys­tem.

“The man­ual sys­tem means the driver of train A has to phone for au­tho­ri­sa­tion to cross or to pro­ceed, which re­sults in de­lays and frus­tra­tions but most fright­en­ing also leads to train crashes as we have re­cently seen,” he said. –

Metro­rail’s safety lev­els are way be­low stan­dard

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