Transnet mocks up train crash in Cedara for ‘worst case senario’

2009-11-20 00:00

“PREPARATION is key to averting any major disasters.”

This was the message communicated by Transnet safety managers as they engaged in a train accident simulation at the Cedara railway tunnel yesterday.

The simulation was to prepare them in case of a major train accident involving hazardous chemicals.

The training exercise comes barely a month after a goods train transporting maize from Johannesburg to Durban derailed at the Pietermaritzburg train station, destroying an estimated 17 carriages.

Schalk Bradbeer, the safety manger for the Transnet Freight Rail, said they were carrying out a simulation to test their level of preparedness and to find all the loopholes in their contingency plan in the event of an accident.

The simulation involved the improbable but possible scenario of a collision between a passenger train and a goods train. The safety managers timed the responses and co-ordination among all stakeholders and emergency services, which included the fire department, ambulance services and chemical experts.

Bradbeer said they chose the Cedara tunnel, which is 6,7 km long, for the simulation because it is a high-risk area. “This simulation is the worst-case scenario because it is almost impossible for an accident of this nature to happen,” he said.

Mdu Dlamini, a spokesman for Transnet Freight Rail, said the simulation was not only a chance to test their contingency plans, but also an opportunity to co-ordinate their efforts and preparations with those of the other emergency services.

“They have their codes, which they use to describe various situations, and we have our own codes, so we have to co-ordinate all of that to know what we are all talking about.”

While it is highly improbable for an accident like this to happen, Dlamini added, it is not impossible.

“A collision between a passenger and goods train might occur due to human error. When the electronic communication has broken down, you find that we have to communicate verbally with the drivers and there human error might occur.”

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