Train derailments blamed on theft

THEFT of copper cables and aging infrastructure have been cited as the reasons for the recent spate of train derailments.

THEFT of copper cables and aging infrastructure have been cited as the reasons for the recent spate of train derailments.

In the latest incident a Shosholoza Meyl carrying 90 passengers, derailed outside Polokwane, Limpopo, on Monday morning.

None of the passengers was injured. Only a technical assistant on the train was slightly injured.

Preliminary investigations into the Polokwane incident showed that the rail point was tampered with. A rail point is an interface between a mainline and a branch line.

Lawrence Venkile, spokesperson for the railway safety regulator said the theft of copper cables and sleepers, especially at rail points, was rife.

Sleepers, either of wood or concrete, support the tracks. When they are removed, they cause a train to derail.

"The wooden sleepers are being done away with since concrete ones are preferred. The theft of copper cables cause a train to lose a signal and affects power supply," Venkile said.

He said his organisation had issued a directive to operators to instruct their train drivers to slow down when approaching a rail point.

Venkile said Gauteng had a high incidence of derailments.

"In other instances people put rocks on the tracks to stop a train and steal from it," he said.

"Western Cape is characterised by mischief' crime in which people try to just steal a train."

Venkile said a forum had been formed with train operators to strengthen rail policing.

Last week a train carrying dolomite derailed in Sprucewell near Balfour in Mpumalanga, causing the closure of the railway line. In April alone three trains derailed in Gauteng:

lTwo people were killed and 55 others injured when a Rovos Rail Pride of Africa train derailed at Bosman train station in Pretoria.

lAShosholoza Meyl Diamond Express train derailed outside Randfontein station on the West Rand. No one was injured.

lIn Centurion another Rovos Rail train with foreign tourists derailed, killing three female Rovos Rail staff.

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