The Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit parliamentary questions to the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, seeking clarity on the progress made to date for the electronic train signalling system which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2018 (Gauteng) and 2019 (KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape).
The Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) has prohibited the use of the manual signalling system after the recent rail accidents in the Free State and Germiston. The prohibition is likely to affect over 2 million people across the country.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) must ensure that affected commuters are provided with alternative transport and stop insisting on the continued use of the dysfunctional signalling system.
PRASA reliance on the faulty manual signalling system accounted for 8% of collisions between trains with direct costs increasing from R889 million to R961 million in the 2016/17 financial year.
It is clear that the use of the manual signalling system has largely been a consequence of the delay by both PRASA and the Department of Transport in facilitating signal modernisation.
PRASA’s claim that cable theft justified the need for a manual system is simply a flimsy attempt to avoid taking responsibility for its own inaction.
PRASA has done little to improve security on the rail system, giving trespassers and criminals free access to key areas of the rail network.
PRASA is responsible for making the rail system vulnerable due to poor supervision of security personnel, old and poorly maintained roads, lack of proper fencing and poor service roads.
It is sad to note that, due to this lethargic approach to security, a security guard was murdered on Tuesday night at Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha. PRASA must be held accountable for exposing security personnel and commuters to victimisation.
The safety of commuters must always be the primary concern of both RSR and PRASA. Implementing an efficient and fully functional signalling system must be a critical first step in this regard.