Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula during a pre-departure inspection at Transnet freight rail. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA).

DURBAN - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula gave a thumbs up after conducting a pre-departure inspection of Transnet's freight rail services, alongside the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) on Thursday, to determine the state of readiness and safety management in Durban.

The minister together with engineers conducted the checks to ensure an incident-free environment. 

“The pre-departure inspections such as the one conducted this morning are a critical element of safety management, as these seek to prevent accidents before they occur. As our safety management regime matures, we continue to learn valuable lessons through these inspections and strengthen the capacity of the Regulator to deliver an incident-free environment,” Mbaula said.

The inspection sought to assess the condition of rolling stock against predetermined train pre-departure criteria in order to make informed decisions.

It was also aimed at investigating the robustness and efficiency of the procedures applied by Transnet Freight Rail for certifying their trains as ready for service.

In addition, the objective of the inspection was to verify adherence of Transnet Freight Rail personnel to the set standards and procedures when performing these ready for service inspections as well as to enforce regulatory instruments where non-compliances are detected.

“As custodians of safety in the railway environment, we have an obligation to ensure that railway operators adhere to the highest safety standards in line with international norms. The Railway Safety Regulator is an agency of the Department of Transport whose mandate is to develop and enforce a robust railway safety management system for the country,” Mbalula added.

In 2017/18, the RSR reported that a total number of 4 478 incidents were reported in the railway environment across all categories, representing a 10 percent increase from the previous year. A total of 2 360 of these were attributed to Transnet Freight Rail.

“Our commitment is to implement measures that will significantly reduce these incidents over time. In order for the economy to thrive and our people to be safe, railway safety must become an integral part of our normal operations at all times,” the Minister said.

The Department of Transport will later this year table before Parliament a Railway Safety Bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s railway safety model and ensure tighter alignment with the South African Police Services in addressing incidents of personal safety and crime in the railway environment. 

SUNDAY TRIBUNE