Emergency services personnel rescue patients from the Metro rail crash at Mountain view Station in West of Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency/ANA

Every day thousands of commuters take trains, buses and taxis, confident they will arrive at their destinations in safety. They put their lives in the hands of the public transport operators – the drivers, conductors, transport hub managers and their controlling bodies.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people did not arrive safely.

Two trains collided in Mountain View, Pretoria. There were about 800 people on board. Three were killed and hundreds left injured. 

Gauteng’s acting police commissioner, Max Masha, has said culpable homicide charges will be brought if negligence is found to have been the cause of the crash. 

Transport union Untu has said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) and Transport Minister Blade Nzimande should be held accountable. It says the crash could have been avoided had there been a second pair of eyes overseeing the manual authorisation of train control officers, thereby avoiding human error. 

This crash happened in Pretoria, but they were Metrorail trains.

It could have happened here in Cape Town.

Commuters coming into Cape Town from the Cape Flats and Northern Suburbs have little choice when it comes to public transport, and even then their alternative to the train is reckless minibus taxis. 

There is no automated system in place to avoid human error entirely, because of ongoing cable theft and vandalism. 

And so the vicious cycle continues, while commuters continue to cram sardine-like into filthy carriages. Should we now also fear for our lives?

* Lance Witten is the live editor for the Cape Argus.

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