Miscommunication between driver, controller blamed for Pretoria train crash

10 January 2019 - 10:22 By Iavan Pijoos
A train driver and a control officer did not comply with the language policy when authorising the train's route, resulting in the train following the wrong track, says a preliminary report. Four people died and 620 were injured in the ensuing collision in Pretoria on January 8.
A train driver and a control officer did not comply with the language policy when authorising the train's route, resulting in the train following the wrong track, says a preliminary report. Four people died and 620 were injured in the ensuing collision in Pretoria on January 8.
Image: Supplied

A preliminary report by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has found that a breakdown in communication between a control officer and a driver led to the deadly train crash near Pretoria's Mountain View train station.

Four people died and 620 other commuters were injured when a train en route to Pretoria station collided with the rear of another train heading to Belle Ombre station.

"Initially three people were declared dead but the last body was trapped underneath the wreckage and it took a while to get it out," Netcare911's Shawn Herbst told TimesLIVE on Thursday.

The RSR report found that there was a breakdown in communication between the train control officer and the driver.

After the driver repeated the authority incorrectly, the train control officer (TCO) acknowledged the incorrect authority. RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams said this resulted in the train entering the section between the Pretoria North and Mountain View stations wrongfully.

"The train driver and TCO did not comply with the language policy when authorising," said Williams.

The report said damage observed on the coaches of both trains indicated that the train to Pretoria station may have been travelling at considerable speed.

According to information from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), the section from Pretoria North to Mountain View has been operating under manual authorisation since November 2018.

"The regulator continues to execute its mandate by highlighting the risks in railway operations. It, however, remains the responsibility of the operator to mitigate the risk," said acting RSR CEO Tshepo Kgare.

"This accident highlights failures at various levels. We therefore urge Prasa to address these shortcomings in all earnest."

The RSR will continue its investigation. 


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