Two Gauteng North High Court Orders to force the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to implement drastic improvements to continue its service with a safety operating permit issued by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), had zero impact on ground level.
On Saturday night, the 8th February, a member of the United National Transport Union (UNTU) was robbed while taking authorisation from the train control office to continue with a train on a route in Durban.
Last week the train drivers of two trains averted a collision at Duffs Road in Durban – the result of the continuous working under manual authorisations, says Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU.
In another incident a train guard was held at gunpoint at Hercules Station in Pretoria and robbed of her personal belongings.
A week before a train driver was stabbed at the Bellville Station, there were no security or members of the rapid rail police, who’s mandate it is to render a visible policing service within the rail environment to address the safety of commuters, passengers, freight and rail transport system, in sight.
“The reality is with every passing day; criminals continue digging out signalling cables in broad daylight. This results in the cancellation of trains or long delays which result in mobs of angry commuters attacking train crews,” says Harris.
On 12 October 2018 Judge Cassim Sardiwalla ordered Prasa to adhere to the safety requirements of RSR and acknowledged the importance of Prasa’s obligation to ensure that it provides a safe and reliable service for the workers who have to operate it and for the commuters that rely on trains to commute.
The Judge described this case as a matter of national importance and availed himself to case manage the progress.
On 20 June 2019 Judge Sardiwalla issued a second court order that must be read in conjunction with his first order.
According to the second order a “Final Compliance Assessment Conference” will be convened to assess on the general compliance of Prasa and the RSR before the Judge on 26 February 2020. Prasa had to deliver final written submissions by 29 January 2020 and the RSR must respond by 12 February 2020.
In the meantime the RSR extended Prasa’s safety operating permit with another three months despite the fact that Prasa had to close various routes nationwide temporarily because of the destructive vandalism of assets after the previous interim board terminated the contract of twenty security companies without having an alternative measure in place.
To date Prasa’s Administrator, Bongisizwe Mpondo, has also been unable to appoint new security companies to prevent the ongoing vandalism.
“UNTU had hoped that the Court would be able to intervene and to find a solution where police are lacking, but sadly the situation only worsened and Prasa is currently in the worse state that it has ever been,” says Harris.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens: Deputy-General Secretary: Media, Liaison and Communication. For interviews and sound bites, please phone before 14:40 or after 16:30.