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War of words intensifies between Prasa and regulator over expired safety permits

Prasa is at loggerheads with with its regulator.
Prasa is at loggerheads with with its regulator.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) said on Wednesday afternoon that it was still waiting for an official response from the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) on its request that its safety permit be extended.

The statement came hours after the regulator announced that Prasa was currently operating trains without a valid safety permit. The regulator said Prasa’s permit‚ which was previously issued with special conditions‚ expired at midnight on July 31.

The regulator said it had taken a decision not to issue a permit until it was satisfied that Prasa’s planned interventions addressed the current safety concerns.

“The RSR is of the opinion that Prasa cannot demonstrate to the RSR that it has the ability‚ commitment and resources to properly assess and effectively control the risks to assets and safety of its customers‚ staff‚ contractors‚ visitors and others who may be affected by its railway operations‚” the regulator said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

However‚ Prasa said it held a held a meeting with the regulator a week earlier‚ on July 25‚ where the RSR raised three critical areas for Prasa to address.

These were a condition assessment of all assets under Prasa‚ that Prasa should submit a plan around its modernisation programme and the filling of critical work grade vacancies.

“Prasa submitted its response for RSR consideration on Tuesday‚ July 31‚ 2018‚ to which the RSR gave an undertaking to respond in 48 hours. In light of this‚ Prasa requested an extension of the Safety Permit to cover the 48 hour timeline given by the RSR to respond to Prasa’s submission‚” Prasa spokeswoman Nana Zenani said in a statement.

Zenani said that‚ as of Wednesday afternoon‚ no official response on Prasa’s request for an extension had been received from RSR - except for what was now in the public domain through the media.

“This means that Prasa does not have an official document from RSR that articulates the sentiments shared in the media statement‚” she said.

However‚ the regulator’s spokeswoman‚ Madelein Williams‚ said on Wednesday afternoon that Prasa was supposed to file all the documentation that the regulator required by last Friday.

“Prasa failed to submit last Friday‚ but only filed at the close of business on Tuesday July 31. We indicated to them that we need 48 hours to assess the documentation that we received‚” Williams said.

She said that‚ at the moment‚ Prasa did not have a safety permit and could not operate.

“Our team is currently in discussions with our legal representatives to look at the next step we should take. The Railway Safety Regulator Act gives the RSR powers to‚ among others‚ issue a prohibition directive or a contravention notice. And if a contravention notice is ignored‚ we can issue Prasa with a penalty. Criminal charges can also be instituted‚” Williams said.

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