Press Statement dated 5 October 2018

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) is grateful and relieved that the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) suspended the safety operating permit of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) this afternoon.

“We are very grateful that the RSR acknowledge the seriousness of the malfunctional state of our passenger rail in Transport Month by suspending the safety operating permit which should never have been granted for another year at the end of August.

“The suspension of the safety operating permit will have a devastating impact on the poorest of the poor who rely on Metrorail, a division of Prasa, to travel to and from work and on the economy at large.

“This forces President Cyril Ramaphosa and the rest of Government to finally come to the party to find solutions to what has become the horrific state of Metrorail,” says Sonja Carstens, spokesperson of UNTU.

According to her the incidents reported over the last five weeks has indicated to the RSR and the Department of Transport (DOT) that they were misled by Prasa about the situation on ground.

Prasa’s infrastructure is ailing and the state-owned enterprise (SOE) has so many critical vacancies, that it no longer has the skills and expertise to turn it around, says Carstens.

This comes after a commuter train that was operating on manual authorisation derailed this afternoon at the Knights Station in Germiston on the East Rand.

According to Carstens the train driver was informed by the train control office that the catch points had been set correctly and it was safe to continue. The catch points were set correctly, and the train derailed. No serious injuries were reported.

On Thursday 300 commuters were injured, some of them very serious, when a train crashed into a broken-down train near the Van Riebeeckpark Station between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Although it was initially reported that a commuter had passed on, the information was incorrect. His condition was in a critical condition when he was transported to hospital.

Carstens says the Union believes that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan must be appointed as the Minister overseeing all SOE’s including Prasa, and while the RSR must continue to report to Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Transport to ensure accountability and compliance.

“Then only, can Minister Nzimande have an imbizo, not on transport in general, but on passenger rail and invite each and all that might have a valuable contribution to make to resolve the challenges faced by Prasa,” says Carstens.

Prasa has not yet acknowledged the RSR’s letter or refrained from operating its trains.

“UNTU will direct our members on Monday on the way forward with regards to the operating of trains,” Carstens says.

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