Kimberley - Repair work on the railway line by Transnet and a lack of communication – not the controversial Afro4000 locomotives – apparently caused Wednesday morning's train accident in Modderrivier.
The 16-coach Shosholoza passenger train was travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town when it derailed in Modderrivier, a small town next to the N12 highway about 35km from Kimberley.
Most of the coaches derailed while the locomotive and the first five coaches overturned.
Another four coaches slammed into the overturned coaches.
Shosholoza spokesman Mthura Swarts said repair work to the railway line seems to have contributed towards the accident.
“It is never wise to say anything before the investigation has been concluded, but a preliminary probe has revealed that work was being done on the railway line. As a result a temporary junction was placed in the line.
“The driver of the train was not notified about the work and he proceeded at a normal speed. We will have more answers once the full investigation is completed,” said Swarts.
It appears as if the train was travelling at 90km/h while a speed limit of 30km/h was required at the section under construction, which includes a bridge over the river.
The derailment occurred just 500 metres from the bridge.
Swarts said they still have to determine the speed the train was travelling at at the time of the incident.
He added that the line has been closed and could be reopened later on Wednesday.
“Sixty people were taken to hospital for observation and shock. One person, the co-driver, Fazel Boer, is still in hospital. All the passengers were transported to Cape Town with buses.”
He said the new Afro4000 locomotive had nothing to do with the accident.
“Transnet gave us permission to use the locomotives and it had nothing to do with the accident. The height of the locomotive also played no part in the accident,” he said.
Boer, 32, spoke from the hallway of the Kimberley Hospital as he had not been admitted to a ward yet.
He sustained spine, shoulder, neck and head injuries and said that he was trapped under the locomotive and had to crawl his way out.
He crawled into the veld where he apparently lay for more than hour waiting for assistance.
Prasa officials were by his side on Wednesday morning making arrangements to have him transferred to Mediclinic Gariep in Kimberley.
* The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa has been dogged by controversy after it imported the Afro4000 locomotives at a cost of R600 million from Europe. It has been alleged that the locomotives were too high and ran the risk of damaging overheard electric cables.