Plea to transport minister Blade Nzimande over rail safety

08 October 2018 - 11:17 By Bobby Jordan
The safety permit could soon be revoked again should Prasa fail to address safety concerns.
The safety permit could soon be revoked again should Prasa fail to address safety concerns.
Image: Gallo Images

Emergency intervention is required to avoid a nationwide shutdown of all Metrorail operations‚ Cape Town’s transport boss Brett Herron said at the weekend.

This follows the Rail Safety Regulator’s (RSR) decision to revoke the safety permit of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in the wake of several recent accidents.

The permit was subsequently reinstated by the North Gauteng High Court‚ but could soon be revoked again should Prasa fail to address safety concerns raised by the regulator.

Herron appealed to transport minister Blade Nzimande to step in to avert a major transport crisis that could affect millions of commuters.

“I am calling again on Minister Nzimande to do something‚” Herron said in a statement.

“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‚” he said.

“In Cape Town alone‚ several hundred thousand passenger trips are made daily on Metrorail‚ despite the poor and unreliable conditions under which our commuters and residents travel‚” Herron said.

Addressing the stand-off in a statement issued on Sunday‚ the regulator said it was “unable to tolerate the continuation of unsafe practices within Prasa‚ considering that Prasa mainly serves the poorest of the poor with no alternative means of transport to travel to and from work.

“They should‚ therefore‚ not be made to choose between that and life‚” the regulator said.

“The RSR’s decision (to revoke Prasa’s safety certificate) came as a result of the accident that took place on 4 October 2018 and was further informed by the fact that Prasa Rail cannot demonstrate that it has the ability‚ commitment and resources to properly assess and effectively control the risks arising from its railway operations.

“Prasa was afforded 48 hours to wrap up its operations and to inform all its customers‚ employees and contractors of the RSR’s decision to suspend its permit‚” the statement said.

The RSR’s concerns were exacerbated by a further rail incident on Sunday‚ when a Prasa train derailed at Mayfair Station‚ the organisation said.

The regulator’s application to revoke Prasa’s license is due to be heard in court later this week.