Operational incidents related to South Africa’s railways decreased by 5% during 2016/17, reaching a seven-year low of 4 066 incidents, compared with 4 250 in the prior year.
The Rail Safety Regulator (RSR), which on Monday released its yearly railway safety report, noted, however, that safety-related incidents occurring in the rail environment increased by 13% to 6 379 incidents, compared with the 5 520 incidents reported in the prior year.
Operational incidents comprise those resulting from operating rail infrastructure, and could include collisions with objects, animals or people; electric shocks; derailments; fires resulting from an operational cause; and incidents arising from the platform-train interface.
Safety-related incidents primarily relate to crime, and include equipment and infrastructure theft; arson; malicious damage to property; train hijacking; personal safety on trains, at stations and railyards, sidings and depots; industrial action; and crowd-related incidents. The most alarming figure was a 27% increase in the number of incidents reported at level crossings, which rose from 87 occurrences in 2015/16 to 119 occurrences during the period under review.
Also rising significantly were occurrences of people being struck by trains, which rose by 17% from 541 occurrences in 2015/16 to 651 occurrences in 2016/17.
Operational and security-related incidents resulted in 495 deaths and 2 079 injuries during 2016/17, with fatalities up 8% year-on-year but injuries down 10% year-on-year.
RSR research GM Cornel Malan said the fatalities of the 2016/17 reporting period were highly alarming: “it is almost two people dying each day!”