File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Commuters nationwide have been left in suspense whether the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) was able to successfully challenge the Railway Safety Regulator's (RSR) notice of intention to suspend its operating permit.

This amid fears that shutting down Prasa would put immeasurable pressure on the transport system and result in the collapse of the economy.

Prasa had approached the North Gauteng High Court on Sunday with a request to invalidate the notice. In the meantime, it's business as usual for the beleaguered railway system in Cape Town until a court ruling on the matter.

The rail regulator's spokesperson, Madeleine Williams, wasn't willing to divulge much on the court proceedings to the Cape Times late on Thursday afternoon, only saying: "Prasa did appear in court today to make their submissions, but the matter hasn't been concluded yet. We are hoping for a conclusion on the matter tomorrow.

"I really can't say much more, but it's best to check in with us on the matter tomorrow."

Prasa and the RSR first appeared in the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday, where they made submissions on immediate steps to address safety issues.

Earlier in the week, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande implored both the RSR and Prasa to find an out-of-court settlement in the interests of millions of commuters who daily use Metrorail.

Prasa was issued with a notice of intention to suspend its safety permit after two Metrorail trains collided in Kempton Park last week, injuring at least 320 people. 

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union's (Satawu) Zanele Sabelo told ewn.co.za that with Metrorail transporting at least two million commuters daily, the majority working-class people, the country’s transport system simply could not afford to have the railway service suspended.

“You did see the chaos that ensued when we had the bus strike, trains take more people than the buses do. So there will be chaos, literally, it will be a total collapse of the economy.”

Cosatu in the Western Cape also expressed its concern with the decision by the RSR, saying if services are affected, it will result in the loss of jobs.

"The RSR's decision came as a result of the accident that took place on 4 October, 2018 and was further informed by the fact that Prasa Rail cannot demonstrate that it has the ability, commitment and resources to properly assess and effectively control the risks arising from its railway operations," Williams had said in an earlier statement.

On August 1, RSR had sent a contravention notice to Prasa informing it that it was operating without a valid safety permit. At the end of that month, Prasa was granted a one-year safety permit to operate the country’s trains.