Regulation concerns may derail Prasa

Train commuters could find themselves without transport if safety regulators have their way.
Train commuters could find themselves without transport if safety regulators have their way.
Image: Moeketsi Moticoe.

Train commuters may have to find alternative forms of transport if the Railway Safety Regulator decides to act on its intention to revoke Prasa's operating permit.

This comes after two Metrorail passenger trains collided in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, on Thursday. More than 300 passengers sustained injuries. The collision is said to occurred during a manual authorisation which went wrong. There were no reported fatalities.

The regulator has threatened to revoke Prasa’s safety permit which, if seen through, could stop all Metrorail passenger trains from operating.

The safety regulator on Friday sent Prasa a letter of intention to revoke its permit and gave them only two hours to explain why the permit should not be revoked. Prasa could not meet RSR deadline as investigations into the latest train collision were still being conducted.

“Whilst PRASA acknowledges that the action taken by the RSR is within the mandate of the Safety Regulator, it must be noted that the train incident happened just over 48 hours ago and is still being investigated through the normal processes and structures when such incidents occur,” Prasa said.

“A Board of Inquiry has been established to investigate the cause of the accident, upon which a full report will be released to the relevant authorities.”

Prasa is under severe pressure as its passenger trains have seen an increase in collisions mostly due to manual authorisation - which it has blamed on vandalism.

“Prasa has over the years seen a drastic increase in instances of manual authorisation in train operations. Of the total number of manual authorisations, over 33% (165 488) instances are as a result of continued vandalism of signaling equipment and theft of signaling cables.

“These sustained attacks on PRASA rail infrastructure have reached unprecedented levels with our employees, entrusted to perform their duties, taking strain and in some instances being physically harmed by criminals.”

Prasa Board chairperson Khanyile Kwenyama said that they will be responding to RSR but noted the short deadline as a concern.

“Management is tasked with the response to the RSR and to elaborate on PRASA's safety measures. We are hoping that the Safety Regulator will give due consideration to the response to be provided by management, noting that PRASA was given a short time to respond,” Kwenyama said.

The Safety Regulator sent Prasa a stern warning in August alerting them that they were operating their trains without a valid safety permit after it had expired. The RSR said, at the time, that it was not satisfied that Prasa met all the safety regulations.

“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,” RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams is said to have said in August.

However, Prasa later announced that it had been granted a one-year permit which would expired in July 2019.