The United National Transport Union (Untu) believes government and Transport Minister Blade Nzimande can be held accountable for any injuries incurred by employees or commuters of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), owing to “blatant disregard” for basic safety procedures set down by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR).
The RSR has a mandate to ensure that the provisions of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act are adhered to.
Untu general secretary Steve Harris says PRASA’s implementation of safety standards and regulatory practices has been dismal over the past two years, where critical aspects of safety management are concerned.
“Currently, more than 50% of the signals used by train crews are out of order owing to theft and vandalism. Between January 11 and June 30, more than 320 000 manual train authorisations (MTAs) had been issued by PRASA.
“The number keeps increasing and there is no indication that PRASA is attempting to normalise the situation,” said Harris.
MTAs increase the likelihood of train collisions and derailments as human error may occur, for example at the Geldenhuys station in Germiston in January, when three trains were authorised to continue on the same route, and consequently more than 200 commuters were injured, and one killed.
Civil claims attorney Jaco du Plessis commented that government remains responsible to abide by safety regulations where passenger rail is concerned.
Harris noted the RSR refused to issue PRASA with a safety permit on July 31, after PRASA did nothing to comply within the standards set out by the RSR, within a year.
“Unfortunately Nzimande intervened and forced the RSR to issue PRASA with a compliance permit, which is only valid until August 31.”
Untu will document each incident that results from safety failures by PRASA and approach the court, if need be.