The tragic train accident that has claimed four lives and injured scores of people in Pretoria requires an industry wide solution to prevent future occurrences.
It also requires a strengthened railway regulator with more powers. This is according to the Railroad Association, an industry body representing the interests of the rail industry in South Africa.
“The loss and disruption of lives from this incident is tragic, our thoughts are with the affected families. This tragedy requires an industry wide solution to prevent” says RRA CEO Mesela Nhlapo.
Nhlapo says the accident points to the need to assist the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which operates passenger rail services, to maintain and upgrade its rail and signaling infrastructure to match its new fleet of passenger trains. “The industry has local and international players who can offer technical, engineering and advisory assistance to PRASA to overhaul its infrastructure.” Says Nhlapo.
The RRA notes that PRASA is in a sound financial position to carry out capital expenditure, it may face operational expenditure challenges. The agency is urged to appoint service providers to supplement its internal capacity to fast track infrastructure maintenance and upgrade projects, especially where funds to do so are available.
Nhlapo notes that at the release of the State of Rail Safety report in October last year, deputy minister of transport Sindisiwe Chikunga stated that in the event of rail accident, “it cannot be business as usual” and necessary steps must be taken, including stoppages and use of alternative transport, to address the issue.
Nhlapo says the incident also points to a need to review the role, mandate and positioning of the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR), of which the RRA is a signatory and which issues operating licenses, including to PRASA. “We must allow all relevant law enforcement authorities to investigate the causes of the accident” says Nhlapo, who says the industry may need to review the terms of the operating license issued and the powers of the regulator in the event of violation of those conditions.
“Rail is an important mode of transport for millions of people, but we have to decide whether this is worth risking even a single life to achieve that goal”.
Nhlapo says the RRA is ready to work with government, the industry and commuter representative groups to improve safety and reliability of rail transport.
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