A nationwide shutdown planned by the United National Transport Union (Untu) could further cripple the unstable passenger rail service. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - A nationwide shutdown planned by the United National Transport Union (Untu) could further cripple the unstable passenger rail service.

Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens said its nationwide protests were set to commence on July 26.

The union wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy the army to protect the country’s neglected rail infrastructure.

Untu general-secretary Steve Harris said Ramaphosa was gambling with people’s lives: “How can he have a dream of bullet trains running from Joburg to Musina when the SAPS can’t even prevent the theft of clamps that are supposed to hold the sleepers together on the ailing rail system?”

Harris said the recent derailment of train 0304 at on Tuesday on the Gauteng Springs/Daveyton route to Joburg could have been prevented if Ramaphosa had acted on repeated calls to deploy SANDF troops to safeguard the rail infrastructure, so that the long overdue modernisation programme to revitalise the railways can be fast-tracked and finalised.

“Untu is grateful that nobody died or got badly injured in that train incident. Our sincerest condolences go to the family of the 13-year-old boy who fell from a train on the route from Naledi in Soweto on Sunday.

“Together we can get the government to improve the poor service provided by Metrorail, address its aged infrastructure, the manual signalling and many other aspects that have led to deaths, attacks, health and safety hazards, and arson that leave Untu members, the Federation of Trade Unions of SA (Fedusa) members and the public reliant on the train services and all other commuters in despair daily,” Harris said.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa said it had not received any formal notification of a protest action planned by Untu, but their regional office in Cape Town said it has been informed.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council has granted Untu’s affiliated federation, Fedusa the section 77 protest action certificate in terms of the Labour Relations Act.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is expected to present his budget speech in Parliament on Tuesday.

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Cape Argus