Metrorail offers R20m to crash victims
Johannesburg - Metrorail, a passenger train division of the Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa), announced on Wednesday that it had set aside an additional R20m to compensate victims of two separate train accidents, indicating that it had tightened its rail safety regime.
Lucky Montana, CEO of Prasa, told journalists at a media briefing that the company was "seriously concerned" about the two recent accidents in Soweto on May 19 and in Pretoria on April 8.
Montana reaffirmed that the company would cover the hospital bills of the train crash victims.
The R20m formed part of the new commuter insurance cover that would be introduced in November 2011.
"We are introducing a commuter insurance cover, based on a no fault system to all valid train ticket holders injured or killed in train accidents to ensure speedy assistance to passengers without delay," Montana said.
The company's preliminary investigation found that one of the accidents, in which a Metrorail train collided with the Soweto Business Express in Meadowlands, Soweto, had been caused by "human error", he said.
The company fired the train driver on Tuesday and an additional 19 drivers faced disciplinary action over offences ranging from speeding to passing signals at danger points.
In response to the two accidents, Prasa and Metrorail held an "extra-ordinary meeting" on Saturday to review safety measures at Metrorail and Shosholoza-Meyl, Montana said.
The CEO of Metrorail, Mosenngwa Mofi, said the review took "specific actions" including introducing a compulsory stop at all T-signals, previously treated as cautionary signals where drivers could proceed with caution after a three minute wait.
Mofi said the action also involved strengthening of the human factor management programme, which monitors driver related issues such as driver fatigue, fitness for duty, sobriety and re-enforcement of medical surveillance and compulsory fitness for duty tests.
"All drivers who have violated safety rules such as, among others, speeding in the past three to six months will be withdrawn from service and undergo refresher training courses.
“Some selected retired train drivers will also be recruited on a short-term basis to mentor newer train drivers," Mofi said.