File photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Cape Town - There will be no train service nationwide from September if the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) doesn’t get its act together.

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) said it is “hopeful that it doesn’t come to this”, but feels it can no longer compromise on the safety of millions of commuters.

Prasa was issued with a temporary safety permit by RSR today and a contravention notice for operating trains on August 1 without a valid safety permit. The temporary permit is valid until August 31.

“There have been countless engagements between us and them. We indicated to them what it is we are looking for and the kind of interventions that will give us assurances,” RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams said on Thursday.

“So we are still hopeful that when we get to that point by the end of the month, they will have been able to revise their actions. If they don’t comply, then we can’t issue them with safety permit. 

"So if they are not issued with a permit, it would mean that they can’t operate and there isn’t a service any more. Our concern here is for the safety of commuters.

“We are completely aware that there are many commuters relying on the train service, and all these actions are for the good of the commuter because we understand that they need a reliable and safe service.”

Prasa's permit, which had special conditions attached, expired at midnight on Tuesday, but it had continued to operate regardless.

On issuing the temporary safety permit, Williams said in an earlier statement: "It is the view of the RSR that the issuance of a temporary safety permit will assist Prasa in continuing with their operations, but most importantly provide Prasa with another opportunity to develop robust action plans that will address the identified inadequacies."

“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."

Parliament is also increasing pressure on Prasa to account for the progress of security measures it had promised to put in place to protect Metrorail infrastructure and commuters in the Western Cape. A total of 32 train carriages have been damaged so far this year – 15 last month, with three incidents in 11 days at Cape Town station.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport chairperson, Dikeledi Magadzi, said on Wednesday: “It is taking too long for Prasa to uphold the promises that they have made to the portfolio committee. They indicated that they are going to provide security at these facilities.

“Sometime last year, Prasa indicated that they are going to talk to the police and beef up their own security. We don’t see at all if they have beefed up their security and we are very disappointed.”