Pretoria - Two court orders to force the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to implement drastic improvements to continue its service with a safety operating permit issued by the Railway Safety Regulator have had zero impact on ground level.
United National Transport Union general secretary Steve Harris said the attacks on train personnel were going on unabated and Prasa (was) doing little to help the situation.
“Last week our member was robbed on a route in Durban. In the same week, the drivers of two trains averted a collision at Duffs Road in Durban - the result of the continuous working under manual authorisations,” Harris said.
“In another incident a train guard was held at gunpoint at Hercules Station in Pretoria and robbed of her personal belongings. A week before a train driver was stabbed at the Bellville Station.”
Harris said there was no security or members of the Rapid Rail police.
“Whose mandate is it to render visible policing service within the rail environment to address the safety of commuters, passengers, freight and the rail transport system?
“The reality is with every passing day, criminals continue digging out signalling cables in broad daylight. This results in the cancellation of trains or long delays which result in mobs of angry commuters attacking train crews,” said Harris.
Other reported incidents have included female train drivers being assaulted or raped.
In October 12, 2018, Judge Cassim Sardiwalla of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ordered Prasa to adhere to the safety requirements of Railway Safety Regulator.
The judge acknowledged the importance of Prasa’s obligation to ensure that it provided safe and reliable service for the workers who had to operate the service, and for the commuters that rely on trains to commute.
He described this case as a matter of national importance and availed himself to case-manage the progress.
On June 29 last year, Judge Sardiwalla issued a second court order in which he said a final compliance assessment conference should be convened to assess the general compliance of Prasa and the regulator on February 26.
Prasa had to deliver final written submissions by January 29, while the regulator had to respond by yesterday.
Harris said in the meantime, the regulator had extended Prasa’s safety operating permit with another three months despite the fact that it had to close various routes temporarily because of the destructive vandalism of assets after the previous interim board terminated the contract of 20 security companies without an alternative measure in place.
“Prasa administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo has also been unable to appoint new security companies to prevent the ongoing vandalism,” Harris said.
Mpondo was appointed in December to restore the derailed entity, which had been plagued by mismanagement, rampant corruption and external problems such as theft and vandalism.
“We had hoped that the court will be able to intervene where the political will to find a solution is lacking, but sadly the situation only worsened and Prasa is in the worst state that it has ever been,” said Harris.
Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said: “Management views all safety of staff as a critical part of our future success.
“We will continue to engage and find robust interventions to safety solutions.”