Press Statement dated 9 January 2018

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) demands that the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) be charged with more than 200 charges of attempted murder after a Metrorail train rear-ended a stationary locomotive in Germiston on Tuesday, injuring over 200 commuters.

“Enough is enough. The RSR and PRASA acted reckless in allowing the trains to once again be manually operated when signal problems occurred knowing that the poor management and unsafe execution of the manual authorisation process resulted in a crash between two Metrorail trains at the Elandsfontein Station on 1 June 2017 during which a commuter was killed,” says Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU.

UNTU obtained a legal opinion from Wessie Wessels, a senior attorney specialising in criminal law, to confirm that there is indeed a prima facie case against the RSR and PRASA after the crash on 9 January 2018.

According to Wessels the legal test of dolus eventualis must be applied. By allowing the trains to be manually operated, the RSR and PRASA objectively foresees the possibility that their acts might cause deaths and persist with it regardless of the consequences.

“The RSR and PRASA were very lucky that a commuter did not die this morning, but they knew that someone could die. What is even more shocking is that this comes six weeks after the RSR announced on 22 November 2017 that the number of deaths caused by railway operational occurrences has increased by 8% in the 2016/17 reporting period,” says Wessels.

According to Harris the RSR and Prasa breached a prohibition directive issued by the railway safety watchdog against the passenger rail service on 2 June 2017. On this day the RSR prohibited Prasa from operating on manual authorisation at various signals in Gauteng.

The RSR issued the directive against Prasa, after an investigating into the crash between two Metrorail trains at the Elandsfontein Station on 1 June 2017 revealed that the two trains were authorised into a section at the same time, thus indicating poor management and unsafe execution of the manual authorisation process. Manual authorisation was necessary because the signals were not working due to cable theft. A commuter was killed, and more than 50 others injured in the crash.

The RSR issued the directive in terms of Section 36 of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act No16 2002 (as amended) for abnormal working conditions, that is, manually authorising train movements, which led to the Elandsfontein train collision.

Failure to comply with the Directive is an offence in terms of Section 45 of Act 16 of 2002 as amended, (National Railway Safety Regulator Act) and will result in criminal charges and/or a penalty being imposed in terms of the Penalty Fee Regulations 2011 as amended.

Harris says that the RSR has no teeth and should have suspended the railway services in Gauteng unless the signals were working. “How can we sit back and blatantly allow innocent train crew members and commuters to put their lives at risk knowing that death is a likelihood? UNTU, who represents most employees working for PRASA, will leave no stone unturned until justice is done,” says Harris.

UNTU warned the RSR on 14 December 2017 that it is failing its duty to South Africans.

According to Wessels both the injured commuters can also submit civil claims for amongst other their injuries and loss of income against the RSR and PRASA.

“The time has come that South Africans stand up to the maladministration of state-owned enterprises and watchdogs that is funded with tax payer’s money without adhering to any of its Constitutional obligations,” says Harris.

Issued on behalf of United National Transport Union (UNTU) by Sonja Carstens, Media and Liaison Officer