‘Speed up train crash probes’

TRANSPORT Minister Joe Maswanganyi has ordered the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa,Picture: Supplied

TRANSPORT Minister Joe Maswanganyi has ordered the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) the speed up the investigations into two train accidents that happened only five days apart.

The second accident in Germiston happened yesterday on the day that relatives of the 19 people who died in a train crash in Kroonstad last week were due to identify the victims.

The accident, which came less than a week since the Kroonstad crash, left more than 200 commuters injured at Germiston train station.

Gauteng Metrorail spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng confirmed that 226 commuters were injured. She said that 67 suffered moderate injuries while the other 159 had light injuries. The two trains that collided were both authorised to travel on the same line to Springs from Johannesburg.

Most of these injuries are as a result of the emergency brakes being applied by the driver of the oncoming train. Investigators on the scene classified this crash as a rear-end vision on the platform and a comprehensive investigation is under way.

“These trains were both travelling on the same line towards Springs from Johannesburg. A board of inquiry will be instituted to determine the root cause of the accident,” Mofokeng said. Maswanganyi directed RSR and Prasa to expedite the investigation into the cause of the two Metrorail trains that collided yesterday morning at Geldenhuis station east of Johannesburg.

He said Prasa should expedite its plans to modernise rail services in South Africa including expediting the process to replace all existing interlocking signalling, which consists mainly of obsolete mechanical and electromechanical systems, with electronic interlocking as the technology of choice.

“A budget of about R5.6bn has been set aside for the signalling modernisation from 2015 to 2018. As we know that our rail network has previously been characterised by years of disinvestment by the apartheid regime,” Maswanganyi said.

“Cable theft remains one of the major challenges that keep on undermining our determination and efforts to provide a safe and secure railway experience for all South Africans.” The minister has also called on communities, civil society and business to work together with the government to secure the railway network from all the criminals intent on vandalising the railway network for economic gain.

Meanwhile, family members of the deceased were accompanied by the agency’s members to identify bodies at the Kroonstad mortuary of those involved in the fatal accident near Kroonstad in the Free State.

Prasa spokesperson Dr Sipho Sithole said yesterday that the 19 people who perished in the collision have all been accounted for. Sithole said the DNA comparison process will take until tomorrow. He said the pathologist had promised that the process of reconstruction of the remains should be complete by tomorrow. The Pan Africanist Congress also expressed its frustrations at the second train incident.

The party’s national spokesperson, Kenneth Mokgatlhe, said in a statement that the Germiston train collision was a sign that Prasa is not learning. “It is now becoming a common tradition to lose our loved ones on the trains while many are injured and can no longer look after their families,”

Mokgatlhe said. Mokgatlhe said that the party had been warning Prasa in the past several years including last year following a crash in Tembisa. Mokgatlhe said public locomotives were in a dire state to the extent that politicians and Transnet officials did not commute on these trains.

  -KEITUMETSI MOTLHALE|keitumetsim@thenewage.co.za