PRETORIA - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has instructed the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) to prioritise its investigation into the crash involving a Transnet tamping machine carrying out railway track maintenance and a new Metrorail train at Eerste Fabrieke Station in Mamelodi in Pretoria, injuring at least 57 people, on Saturday evening.
Mbalula expressed well-wishes and a speedy recovery to the injured passengers, saying he was personally saddened by the incident which was "indeed a baptism of fire" after he had only been in his new job for two days. "It is a call to act, and to act now. And that is exactly what I have done," he said on Sunday.
"I have instructed the Railway Safety Regulator to prioritise its investigation of this collision. Once the investigation is done, we will report back to the victims and to the nation in due course. We will also outline steps that will be taken to deal with the cause of this collision. It cannot be that our rail network is taking the same path similar to the crashes on our roads."
Mbalula said South Africa's rail network was unfortunately "slowly becoming the killing fields, just like our roads network". "I will soon meet all the transport rail and road entities to deal with this matter as a priority. The time has come for new and fresh ideas to stop the carnage," he said.
He had also instructed the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to submit an urgent report regarding the incident, and to provide support to the injured and their families, Mbalula said.
On Saturday night, Gauteng Metrorail said 57 people were injured, 14 seriously, when the tamping machine carrying out railway track maintenance crashed into a new Metrorail train at Eerste Fabrieke Station, after passengers refused to leave the train when they were asked to do so by the driver when he saw the machine approaching, and immobilised the train instead.
The tamping machine "rolled from Greenview back to Eerste Fabrieke Station where the Metrorail train was stationery and carrying commuters on board" at about 6.25pm, Metrorail said in a statement.
Emergency services attended to the injured commuters, 14 of whom had been seriously injured while 43 others sustained minor injuries. They were treated at Steve Biko and Tshwane district hospitals.
"The driver of the stationery train requested the 300 commuters on board to leave the train upon noticing the oncoming [tamping] machine. The commuters refused to leave the train, instead pulled the passenger emergency alarm levers which stops the train from moving," Metrorail said.
The crash had resulted in the train service between Pienaarspoort and Pretoria being affected, with the line closed to allow both Metrorail and Transnet technical teams to attend to the accident.
African News Agency (ANA)