Cape Town - Fifty-six people have died, and 51 were seriously injured in various train-related incidents in the Western Cape in the 2017-2018 period, Metrorail said this week.

This month, a man died when he was caught under a train at Salt River station this week, and a woman died at Oosterzee Station last week.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said the company’s preliminary report indicated the woman’s behaviour was consistent with suicide in the Oosterzee incident.

“She was not in possession of a valid ticket.

“According to bystander accounts, she claimed she was pregnant and was deserted by her parents and the father of the unborn child,” Scott said.

In the Salt River incident, the man was standing on the platform with his back to the oncoming train, Scott said.

“The driver sounded his siren repeatedly, in vain.”

This incident was associated with suicide, Scott added.

She said every year all regions sent their incident information to the national risk office, which submitted it to the Rail Safety Regulator.

File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

“Scores of trespassing pedestrians are struck by trains every year. The majority of incidents happen between stations during illegal crossings or suicides,” she said.

Scott said train operating rules determined that trains travelled with their headlights on bright and drivers sounded their sirens upon spotting any person or animal near the tracks.

In the operational tunnel, trains had right of way. They could not take evasive action or swerve and it took up to 500 metres (the length of five rugby fields) to stop.

Asked about safety measures in place to prevent passengers and pedestrians being struck by trains, Scott said: “The regional rail network comprised 489 kilometres, and operates across seven municipalities.

“Similar to freeways and major arterials, it is impossible to fence the entire system. Fencing is primarily a demarcation of boundary and not a deterrent to unlawful entry.

“The erection of fences, walls would not solve the problem of individuals being struck by trains if there is an apparent resistance to the use of authorised crossings,” she said.

“Any solution must take account of the root cause of the problem and address the reasons for the apparent resistance and, or lack of discipline to use authorised rail crossings.

“It is our experience that holes are being made in the existing 2.4m high weldmesh fencing almost immediately after repairs,” Scott said.

“Given the current state of the train fleet, the publicity around the train service and fires, we continue to advise passengers that trains are overfull and continue to make them aware of travelling responsibly and safely (buying tickets and not endangering their lives through irresponsible actions such as travelling between carriages, embarking/disembarking from moving trains and opening train doors in transit)”.

Weekend Argus