A month after Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula launched the Ministerial “war room” to improve the daily train services of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), there has been zero improvement on ground level.


To date no train drivers belonging to the United National Transport Union (UNTU), the majority union in Prasa, has a telephone number for the “war room or rooms” where they can report occurring problems on their routes.


To them it is business as usual since the establishment of the “war rooms” as they continue to bear witness to the stripping of the remaining infrastructure by criminals, says Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU.


“Abnormal working of the trains continues with thousands of manual authorisations issued per month nationwide. Train drivers throughout the country, also those working for Transnet Freight Rail, are reporting the theft of overhead cables daily,” says Harris.


Last week in KwaZulu-Natal the situation has gone from bad to critical. The province was running on 35 train sets of the 57 train sets that they are supposed to run. As of 5 September 2019, only 25 train sets, 32 train sets less than what is needed, are operational.


“I don’t understand the war rooms priority. We are just endangering people’s lives more and more,” a train driver in the province told Harris.


According to train drivers in Gauteng the situation is worsening every passing day.


“Nothing has changed. The “war room” is side-lining operational managers and labour, Prasa’s most important asset. No one tells the truth about what is happening or not happening in the war room. Senior management gets mislead because no one gets the correct information,” a Section manager told Harris.


In a voice recording a manager wanted to know how the war room works and whether it is “real” of just “lies”. He pleaded that he be assisted as the areas outlined for Gauteng in the war room does not even match the real ones. UNTU masked his voice to protect his identity. (Find attached)


“The harsh reality is that the so-called Prasa, with its so-called war rooms, and the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) are both merely trying to comply with the extended court order of the Gauteng-North High Court granting Prasa a conditional safety operating permit.


“The order, an extension on the first order granted by Judge Cassim Sardiwalla on 12 October 2018, gives Prasa until 31 October 2019 to fill the 52% of vacancies in KwaZulu-Natal.


“Furthermore, Prasa is ordered to monthly submit a detailed implementation of the Compliance Action Plan to the Court. A Final Compliance Assessment Conference will be held before Judge Sardiwalla on 26 February 2020,” says Harris.


To date neither President Cyril Ramaphosa nor Minister Mbalula responded to the list of demands outlined in the memorandums handed to Government nationwide during UNTU and its affiliated federation, the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), protest marches.


Harris reaffirmed that if the President implements the demands set out by UNTU, there will be an immediate improvement on the reliability of train services and Prasa’s workers and commuters would commute in a much safer environment.


Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary: Media, Liaison and Communication. For UNTU press releases phone Sonja on 82 463 6806 or e-mail

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