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JOHANNESBURG - Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) yesterday received a stay of execution after the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) issued it with a Temporary Safety Permit valid until the end of this month.

The regulator said the temporary permit would allow the rail agency to continue with its operations and to address the identified inadequacies.
“The RSR has issued PRASA with a Contravention Notice for operating trains on 1 August 2018 without being in possession of a valid Safety Permit,” RSR said. 

“It is the RSR’s legislative obligation, as an authority responsible for overseeing rail safety, to ensure that operators demonstrate the highest levels of commitment towards the safety of railway operations customers, staff, contractors, visitors and others who may be affected by its railway operations”.  

The regulator strangely failed to mention the “inadequacies” at Prasa’s safety measures it had identified.

The country has had a few rail accidents in the past few months. In January a Shosholoza Meyl train en route from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg crashed into a truck that allegedly failed to stop at a level crossing.  The accident involved nine carriages and more than 200 passengers were injured, while 18 people lost their lives.

In May four people were killed in a collision between a vehicle and a train in Magaliesburg, north-west of Johannesburg.

The state-owned rail agency had the regulator failed to grant it a Safety Permit or the extension of the previous Safety Permit would have meant that an inability of Transnet to traverse its network costing millions of Rands to the economy. 

Almost 2 million commuters reach their places of work via Prasa’s extensive rail network. The SOE said the board will be engaging with the Minister of Transport and the RSR to ensure that the parties do not find themselves in the same situation where its safety permit is in question.

Prasa Chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama said: “Prasa takes the operation of a state rail system as an integral part of Prasa’s statutory mandate,” Kweyama said.

We have been working hard to ensure that the improvement of safety is placed at its rightful place and, we with the time given to us by RSR, we make sure that management addresses all the safety issues they have identified”.

Prasa has not submitted its 2016/17 annual report, which is supposed to be submitted at the end of September every year.  

The company in June appointed former eThekwini city manager Sibusiso Sithole as chief executive on an interim basis.