Prasa disregards railways safety, says regulator
WHILE train commuters along the north corridor are still reeling from the Mountain View train crash which left several people dead and over 600 injured, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has confirmed its finding that the Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) was responsible for last Tuesday’s accident.
In preliminary findings, the RSR cited a “breakdown in communication” between the driver and train control officer on the day of the accident, saying, based on data received from Prasa, the section from Pretoria North to Mountain View had been operating under manual authorisation since November 2018.
Furthermore, the RSR said the damage to the coaches of both trains indicated that the train to Pretoria station may have been travelling at a considerable speed, something commuter Rebecca Majola took note of before she was freed from the wreckage shortly after the accident.
Majola said the train they were travelling in kept on ringing the bell for a long time.
She thought at the time that it was going too fast.
“All I remember before waking up on the floor of the train was this long bell ringing, followed by the bang and I was out of it.”
An inconsolable Majola said when she came to she had blood in her mouth and pains all over her body.
Acting RSR chief executive Tshepo Kgare said accidents such as the Mountain View one indicated that Prasa was in contravention of its own standard operating procedures, as well as the directives of the regulator.
She said the regulator had consistently highlighted the risks inherent in prolonged periods of manual train authorisations.
It continued to compel Prasa to provide proper control and supervision of manual train authorisation.
“However, we keep on seeing a recurrence of incidents attributable to this method of operation,” Kgare added.
“Even after being issued with a court order to improve safety in its operations, Prasa continues to demonstrate the highest levels of lethargy and disregard for rail safety in their operations.
“When trains are manually authorised they are required to travel at a speed of 30km/h.”
The exact speed the two trains were travelling at before the accident will, however, only be confirmed once the RSR has received and had time to analyse the event recorder data provided to it.
The trains reportedly had about 1 000 commuters each and had departed from the Mabopane station.
What the RSR could gather of the incident, it said, showed that “after the train driver repeated the authority incorrectly, the train control officer acknowledged the incorrect authority.
“This resulted in the train entering the section between the Pretoria North and Mountain View station wrongfully”.
“The train driver and control officer did not comply with the language policy when authorising,” the regulator said. Kgare said the RSR would continue its investigations in order to establish the contributing factors and the root cause of the collision.
Meanwhile, commuters left stranded following the suspension of train services along the north corridor have decried the shortage of buses provided by Prasa.
The state-owned enterprise indicated shortly after the accident that it would be providing commuters with 30 buses to transport them along the route the trains normally took.
It indicated that the buses would only be for commuters with monthly tickets, and encouraged others to try to make alternative arrangements.