Nearly 300 dead in one year after being hit by trains on SA's railway tracks

01 October 2019 - 15:23 By Naledi Shange
More than 280 people lost their lives after being hit by trains on South Africa's railway tracks in the 2018/19 financial year.
More than 280 people lost their lives after being hit by trains on South Africa's railway tracks in the 2018/19 financial year.
Image: Gallo Images/Rapport/Roger Sedres

A total of 284 people were killed after being struck by trains on SA’s railway tracks in the 2018/19 financial year, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday.

They were among 519 people who were hit by trains between April 1 2018 and March 31 2019, with the other incidents resulting in injuries, Mbalula said.

While the numbers might seem strikingly high, Mbalula said this was significantly lower than the number of people struck on the tracks in the previous financial year.

“This is an encouraging 12% decrease when compared to the previous reporting period. This is part of a sustained improvement observed since the peaks observed during 2016/17,” he said.

Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal accounted for the bulk of these incidents.

Mbalula said there were still plenty of issues in the rail sector.

“It is also undeniable that over the years the quality of rail services has deteriorated drastically, which has had an adverse impact on safety,” he said, adding that intense measures needed to be taken to fix the problems.

He was speaking shortly after releasing the annual railway State of Safety report in Cape Town. The report is published by the Railway Safety Regulator.

The report revealed that 3,990 operational occurrences were recorded during the year. These ranged from derailments to collisions and level crossing accidents, as well as incidents where people were stuck by moving trains.

In terms of incidents at level crossings, 25 fatalities were reported, along with 75 injuries.

The regulator said there were 370 derailments reported during 2018/19 by the entire rail industry - a figure which it said was lower than the previous year.

“These derailments resulted in one fatality and 29 injuries,” Mbalula said.

With hundreds of injuries still being reported in train-related incidents, Mbalula stressed that more had to be done to ensure the safety of railroad transport, which remains the most affordable mode of transport.

“We cannot sit back and fold our arms while the state of safety in our railways remains dire. We must redouble our efforts to turn the tide and ensure that the massive investments in rail infrastructure result in tangible improvements in safety,” Mbalula said.

“Our social compact with all social partners must focus on this challenge and all stakeholders must heed the clarion call and pull their weight behind ensuring that our railways are safe, secure and on track.”