Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Union says Prasa's 'war room' is ineffective

By Getrude Makhafola Time of article published Sep 9, 2019

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Johannesburg -  The Passenger Rail Service  Agency of South Africa's state-of-the-art nerve centre known as a "war room"  is ineffective and has had no impact on the train services, the United National Transport Union (Untu) said on Monday.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula launched the Germiston-based nerve centre last month, promising an end to commuter train service problems.

The union said there has been no improvements a month after the establishment of the "war room".

"To date, no train drivers belonging to the Untu, the majority union in Prasa, has a telephone number for the “war room"  where they can report occurring problems on their routes. It's business as usual to them since the establishment of the “war room” as they continue to bear witness to the stripping of the remaining infrastructure by criminals," secretary general Steve Harris said in a statement.

"Abnormal working of the trains continues with thousands of manual authorisations issued per month nationwide. Train drivers throughout the country, also those working for Transnet Freight Rail, are reporting the theft of overhead cables daily."

Metrorail's passenger train service is known for its unreliable service that leaves thousands of commuters stranded. This, coupled with overcrowding, accidents, arson and vandalism has seen train services worsen across the country.

Launching the "war room", Mbalula said it would be a "game changer" for train services.

"The war room we are unveiling today will be a game changer through which we will aggressively improve the quality of our passenger rail service. This war room is about the people and a key measure in delivering on our commitment to improve our public transport system. It is a physical space that enables those who are deployed there to make rapid decisions based on the information they gather from the operations on the ground on an hour by hour basis. It will be supported by a technical team made up of experts with in-depth knowledge and experience in a number of areas, which include train operations, signaling, rolling stock and security."

Harris said train services in KwaZulu-Natal had "gone from bad to critical." He said the province's running train sets have decreased from 35 to 25 from last week.

"According to train drivers in Gauteng the situation is worsening every passing day. The harsh reality is that Prasa, with its so-called war rooms, and the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) are both merely trying to comply with the extended court order of the Gauteng North High Court granting Prasa a conditional safety operating permit. The order, an extension on the first order granted by Judge Cassim Sardiwalla on 12 October 2018, gives Prasa until 31 October 2019 to fill the 52 percent of vacancies in KwaZulu-Natal,' Harris said.

“Furthermore, Prasa is ordered to monthly submit a detailed implementation of the Compliance Action Plan to the Court. A Final Compliance Assessment Conference will be held before Judge Sardiwalla on 26 February 2020."

African News Agency/ANA

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