Metrorail probes double train crash

2013-02-01 17:14
Pretoria train crash (Picture: Netcare911)

Pretoria train crash (Picture: Netcare911)

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Johannesburg - Metrorail on Friday probed the cause of a double train crash near Pretoria that sent at least 150 people to hospital, with authorities saying cable theft could have contributed to the accident.

"At the time of the accident, we were authorising our trains manually because of cable theft that happened in the early hours of yesterday," said Lillian Mofokeng, spokesperson for Metrorail.

"So we are not ruling out the contribution that cable theft [had]. However, we also do not want to speculate into the actual cause of the accident."

The two trains, packed with rush-hour commuters and school children, collided near Pretoria on Thursday hours after cable theft had forced a switch to manual operations.

The crash took place at around 07:10 when a moving train rear-ended a stationary one on the same track.

The Prasa rail authority on Thursday highlighted the theft of cables used for signalling, either by people cashing in on the copper or by striking workers sabotaging the track.

The removal of the cable forced drivers to switch to manual operations, which require a control centre to tell drivers if a section of track is clear before they can proceed.

The stealing of cables to be flogged for money is a major problem, affecting telecommunications, power supplies and rail transport.

In November, the police minister estimated the theft costs the country about R5bn a year.

Five victims of the crash remained hospitalised on Friday.

"So far we have four people still in hospital, five including the driver. He is still critical but stable," said Mofokeng.

Medical workers said up to 350 people were examined after the crash and around 150 were taken to hospitals around Pretoria.

Travel on the line between the Kalafong and central Pretoria, which carries around 20 000 people daily, is still suspended.

Over 90% of commuter trains date back to more than 50 years, the most recent dating from 1986.

Cosatu on Friday slammed the trains as "moving coffins".

The network has been targeted for a major revamp, starting in 2015.

Read more on:    metrorail  |  cosatu  |  prasa  |  transport
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