Press Statement dated 11 January 2019

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) is totally disgusted with the total incompetence of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and its arrogance about the lives of millions of commuters and thousands of employees.

Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says the recent incidents reaffirm UNTU’s view that the Railway Safety Regular (RSR) has no teeth and is not able to act against Prasa even after the North Gauteng High Court enabled it to.

UNTU demands that Prasa and the RSR proves to the South African public that it adhered to the order granted against Prasa by Judge Cassim Sardiwalla on 12 October 2018. Prasa must also prove that it submitted the various plans the Judge wanted within the deadlines stipulated.

Harris says UNTU has information that Prasa did not adhere to at least two of the deadlines in the Court Order in December.

The Union went to the High Court today to check what had been submitted to Judge Sardiwalla only to be informed by the Clerk of the Court that the file has been removed.

UNTU wanted to enquire from Judge Sardiwalla himself what the state of affairs is but was informed that the Judge is still on leave.

In the meantime, yet another Metrorail train 0229 derailed this morning after the train control officer manually authorised it on the Millsite, West Rand route affecting the Randfontein/Johannesburg corridor.

Workers from Prasa Perway was busy replacing sleepers on the main line. Harris says according to the information UNTU received, the train control officer wanted to know if it was safe for the train driver to continue on the route. It was allegedly confirmed that protection was in place and the train driver received authorisation to continue on the route at a speed of 30 km/h.

The sixteen sleepers were still loose and at least two of the coaches derailed.

“We can only thank God that nobody died or sustained serious injuries today. Enough is enough. If Prasa and the RSR don’t submit the proof that they have adhered to Judge Sardiwalle’s Court Order, the Union will consider bringing an urgent application in court to force them to do so.

Both of them account to Transport Minister Blade Nzimande.

UNTU demands that he takes accountability for the ongoing gambling with the lives of innocent employees and commuters,” says Harris.

This comes after at least three people died and 620 people were injured when a collision between two trains at the Mountain View Station in Pretoria on 8 January 2019 occurred after the train control officer manually authorised the train driver of the second train, on the route where another train was standing on the platform.

Harris says this accident would not have happened had Prasa implemented the plan that addresses its implementation of manual authorisation as set out in the Court Order. According to the Order all the manual authorisations must be overseen by a train control officer and a section manager to limit the risk of human error occurring as had been the case in all five collisions in Gauteng over the past two years.

Prasa had to submit a procurement plan with timelines and milestones to the RSR by 30 October 2018 and had to submit a comprehensive Safety Improvement Plan to address all safety issues by no later than 30 November 2018. UNTU doubts this was done.

“Prasa is compelled to provide the RSR and the Registrar of the Court with monthly written feedback reports of its progress. According to the Order Judge Sardiwalla will continue to manage the case and will convene a general compliance assessment conference with the parties on 19 June 2019 at 10:00.

“Prasa must also provide the RSR with a comprehensive integrated asset condition assessment report of all its rail infrastructure, including stations, Perway and civil, level crossings, signalling, telecoms and rolling stock, by no later than 1 March 2019,” says Harris.

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