Prasa dis­re­gards rail­ways safety, says reg­u­la­tor

The Star Early Edition - - METRO - GOITSEMANG TLHABYE [email protected]

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.

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