Faulty Transnet tamping machine blamed for collision that injured 66 people

6th June 2019 By: News24Wire

A Transnet Freight Rail tamping machine has been blamed for causing a crash, involving a new Metrorail train, that injured 64 passengers and two crew members on Saturday.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula released the preliminary report of the collision, which happened at the Eerste Fabrieke Station in Mamelodi, Pretoria, on Wednesday.

Mbalula said the report concluded that the Transnet tamping machine's brakes failed at the Greenview Station, causing it to accelerate toward the Eerste Fabrieke Station, where it collided with a stationary PRASA train.

"The report further notes that the signalling system between Eerste Fabrieke and Pienaarspoort stations has not been functional for approximately two years. This is a matter of concern due to the heightened risk of manual authorisation. It is clear from the report that the train crew performed their duties with diligence, calmly and professionally and averted many more potential injuries," he said in a statement.

He called on PRASA to expedite its inquiry into the matter and vowed to ensure that action would be taken to ensure there was no similar occurrence.

"It is our collective responsibility, both as the commuting public and organs of state, to protect and safeguard public assets. We have to ensure that a culture of consequence management becomes the norm and incidents that could have been avoided do not go unpunished. This is equally true for those who sleep on the job and allow infrastructure to fall into a state of disrepair that exposes the public to unsafe conditions," he said.

Mbalula implored the Railway Safety Regulator to ensure strict adherence to safety protocols and to hold operators accountable for any misconduct that undermined these protocols and standards.

Mbalula said he was concerned with a finding that commuters had interfered with the safety operation of the train by activating the Passenger Emergency Alarm, when the driver attempted to reverse the train to avoid a collision.

"It is equally alarming to learn that passengers ignored the driver's instruction to evacuate the train, resulting in injuries that could have been avoided. This should not be construed as apportioning any blame to those who were injured in the incident.

"We wish them a speedy recovery and we will do everything in our power to ensure that safety in our commuter rail environment improves in a sustainable way."

He said operators have a responsibility to ensure the infrastructure and rolling stock were adequately maintained and kept in an acceptable state of repair.

The minister also urged passengers to respect all safety protocols within the railway environment.

He said the last State of Railway Safety Report painted an unflattering picture of safety performances at railways, where in 2017/18 about 1 027 collisions during the movement of rolling stock were reported.