Not everyone as safe as Zuma on SA Railways
Ian Ollis, DA Spokesperson on Transport
14 June 2012
South African Railways are not quite as safe for ordinary citizens as for President Zuma, who this morning boarded a Metrorail train with what is reported as a “huge contingent of police officers”.
The recently released South African Railway State of Safety Report indicates that 457 people have died and more than R1.1 billion was spent as a result of railway incidents in 2010/2011.
The newly appointed Minister of Transport, Ben Martins, has to coordinate a turnaround plan with the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and account to the Portfolio Committee on Transport for the unacceptably high number of injuries and fatalaties on South African Railways, the escalating costs arising from safety-related incidents and the plans that are in place to improve our railway safety.
The South African Railway State of Safety Report for 2010/2011 recently released by the South African Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) shows minimal improvement in the number of injuries and deaths resulting from operational occurrences in South African rail entities, but a disconcerting trend of escalating costs related to these occurrences.
Operational occurrences include (among others): collisions, derailments, people struck by trains and electric shocks. The highest number of fatalities (364) occurred as a result people being struck by trains.
The report also highlights a 12.7% increase in security-related incidents, which includes 3 993 incidents of theft of assets impacting on operational safety, including cable theft.
Other key findings on the safety performance of South Africa's railway operators include the following:
- 1 534 people were injured and 457 died as a result of operational occurrences on South Africa’s railways. This represents a 19.5% (1 906 injuries) and a 9% (502 fatalities) decrease since the 2009/2010 reporting period.
- While the overall number of incidents due to operational occurrences decreased since 2009, security incidents have increased by 12.7% from 5 661 incidents recorded in 2009/2010 to 6 379 incidents recorded in 2010/2011.
- Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) accounted for 86% of all occurrences reported during the 2010/2011 period.
- The total cost of all operational occurrences and security incidents amounted to R 941.2 million for TFR and R123.5 million for PRASA. This represents a nearly 300% increase in costs for TFR (from R368 million) and a 10.3% increase for PRASA (from R112 million) compared to 2009/2010.
It is unacceptable that, on average, 5 people per day are injured or die in railway incidents.
The RSR report highlights the fact that theft and vandalism put pressure on maintenance and other resources and consequently have a significant impact on railroad safety. There should thus be a concerted effort to prevent these security incidents. Improved cooperation with the South African Police Service Railway Police would be a first step. The RSR should also consider the security model followed by the “Copperheads” taskforce established by the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape, which has achieved major successes in reducing cable theft.
South African Railways should provide safe, reliable transport of people and goods and VIP protection should not be required to ensure the safety of our citizens.
The PRASA and TRF management teams should be working hard to implement the findings of the safety report and to develop clear strategies to improve railway safety.
Safe and efficient railways are essential to creating an environment conducive to socio-economic development. Operational and security failures cannot be allowed to detract from this. Minister Martins should make railway safety a priority.