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2million people would have been affected if we'd stopped running trains: Prasa

Bontivlle Train Station near Cape Town.
Bontivlle Train Station near Cape Town.
Image: Moeketsi Moticoe

Despite not having a valid safety permit to operate‚ the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) said it ran trains because it would have been completely impractical to stop operations for 32 hours.

Prasa said‚ through spokesperson Nana Zenani‚ that‚ had it ceased running‚ it would have resulted in “an inability of almost 2-million commuters to reach their places of work”. Many of those people were not able to afford alternate means of transport.

On top of that‚ Zenani said‚ there would also have been “an inability of Transnet to traverse our network‚ costing million of Rands to the economy”.

The Prasa statement came amid a fight between itself and the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR)‚ after the regulator said that the rail agency’s safety permit had expired on July 31.

Prasa had applied for an extension‚ but it hadn’t immediately been granted. Only on Thursday was Prasa granted a temporary safety permit by the RSR.

The rail agency said it was pleased that an agreement has been reached with the RSR‚ saying that the temporary reprieve would allow the safety regulator to scrutinise submission for the renewal of the safety permit application.

Prasa board chair‚ Khanyisile Kweyama‚ said‚ “Prasa takes the operation of a state rail system as an integral part of Prasa’s statutory mandate. We have been working hard to ensure that the improvement of safety is placed at its rightful place and‚ we with the time given to us by RSR‚ we make sure that management addresses all the safety issues they have identified.”

Kweyama said that the board would also engage with the Minister of Transport and the RSR “to ensure that the parties do not find themselves in the invidious position that they were in over the past 32 hours”.

RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams said the safety concerns raised were over the operation and maintenance of the system‚ including inadequate staffing levels.

“If not addressed properly‚ will affect the safety of railway operations‚” she said.

A safety permit is issued to an operator based an assessment of an Operator’s Safety Management System. A Safety Management System (SMS) means a formal framework for integrating safety into day-to-day railway operations and includes safety goals and performance targets‚ risk assessment‚ responsibilities and authorities‚ rules and procedures‚ monitoring and evaluation processes and any other matter prescribed.

The assessment of Operators Safety Management System takes the format of evaluating the SMS against a set of defined criteria‚ including the physical verification thereof by means of formal inspections and seeking evidence of the implementation of the SMS.

“In the case of PRASA‚ the RSR came to the conclusion that PRASA’s SMS does not demonstrate confidence to the RSR that PRASA Rail 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‚” Williams said.

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