Nzimande in the firing line as 'rail shutdown looms'
The City of Cape Town has repeated its call for a state of emergency to be declared over the commuter railways.
Brett Herron‚ the mayoral committee member for transport‚ said on Saturday his renewed plea to transport minister Blade Nzimande followed reports that the Railway Safety Regulator had issued a notice of its intention to revoke the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) operating permit.
Herron said the regulator’s threat‚ following a collision on Thursday between two Metrorail trains in Kempton Park‚ Ekurhuleni‚ could result in a nationwide shutdown of commuter trains.
“The regulator is required to ensure that it is safe for commuters to use the urban rail service‚” said Herron. “The drastic decision to issue a notice to revoke Prasa’s operating permit on the grounds of safety concerns is a clear indication of the state of the service.
“Shutting down the most important mode of public transport is not a decision that would be taken easily. Grinding rail commuting to a halt will impact millions of South Africans.”
On Friday‚ the regulator gave Prasa only two hours to explain why its operating permit should not be revoked. Prasa said it could not meet the deadline.
“The train incident happened just over 48 hours ago and is still being investigated through the normal processes and structures when such incidents occur‚” Prasa said.
“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.”
Prasa board chairperson Khanyile Kwenyama added: “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.”
In August‚ the regulator warned Prasa its safety permit had expired‚ but Prasa later announced it had been granted a permit until July 2019.
In his statement on Saturday‚ Herron denied Nzimande’s allegation that his state of emergency call amounted to “politicking”.
He said: “My call on the minister for him to consider the powers he has to bring an emergency response is clearly required. Emergency funds and fast-tracking procurement for critical services is what is needed. It is the appropriate response to the scale and urgency of the problem.
“Pointing to the long-promised rail modernisation project that is under way is not an appropriate response to the current state of the service that requires immediate intervention.”