Prasa must prioritise commuters

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

About two million train commuters would have been stranded this week had the Railway Safety Regulator succeeded in suspending all train services in the country.

But their lives would have been safe as the Passenger Rail Service of SA (Prasa) continues to put them in danger each time they board trains.

The regulator issued Prasa with a notice to suspend all its services within 48 hours on Friday.

This was a decision taken out of concern for the safety of train users after yet another accident on Thursday which left more than 300 passengers injured.

This was not the first accident this year as there had been four since the beginning of the year which claimed the lives of 24 people and left 900 hurt.

According to the United National Transport Union (Untu), the country's trains are "death traps" because more than half of its authorisations are done manually. Untu said that between January and June this year more than 320 000 manual authorisation were given and the number was still rising.

Prasa's safety permit was withdrawn by the regulator in August due to safety concerns but was replaced, following negotiations, by a temporary one with "special conditions" which required more supervision and countersigning of manual train authorisations.

The regulator's gripe with Prasa is its failure to comply with the special conditions since September. But Prasa was quick to run to the North Gauteng High Court yesterday for an order to stop the suspension from coming into effect yesterday morning.

Would it not be great if Prasa responded with the same speed to the regulator's safety concerns?

Why do we continue to lose lives and incur injuries because of problems that have solutions?

Prasa has known since August that the regulator was concerned about the safety of its passengers. What has it done since then?

The court application by the train operator against the notice issued by the regulator will be heard on Thursday, and we hope Prasa would be able to tell commuters how it would ensure their safety on the railways.

It is time to get its act together for the sake of millions of workers who rely on it for transport.

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