Metrorail sorry for station stampede

2012-05-10 21:51

Pretoria - Measures would soon be implemented to improve the flow of commuters at Pretoria's main Bosman train station, an official said on Thursday.

This was after a stampede which left 18 people injured earlier in the day.

"The accident is deeply regretted and we would want to apologise to all our commuters who were affected," said Metrorail spokesperson Lilian Mofokeng.

She said the number of injured commuters had risen to 18 but only one person was still in hospital by the close of business on Thursday.

The stampede was a result of commuters rushing to catch a Johannesburg-bound train while others were embarking from the same train, said Mofokeng.

"Commuters did not give others enough time and space to move freely on the subway, resulting in the commotion."

The Railway Safety Regulator had launched an investigation into the stampede, spokesman Sibongiseni Henna said in a statement.

Preliminary information suggested that a train was re-routed from its usual platform, number seven, to number eight.

Commuters therefore had to rush from platform seven to eight "which led to overcrowding and some panic in the subway, hence the injuries during the stampede".

The SA Communist Party said it was angered by the stampede as it was not the first time problems had been reported at the station.

"[This] points to the inadequacies of our interventions and the risk that the working class and the poor are confronted with on a daily basis as they commute to and from work," said spokesman Malesela Maleka.

Money "wasted" on "toys for the rich such as Gautrain" and the e-tolling system could have been better spent on an integrated, safe, efficient and reliable public transport system. "This is why the SACP continues to call for strategic discipline in the infrastructure spending of government.

"The needs of the majority must be prioritised over the whims of capital," Maleka said.

Earlier Tshwane emergency services spokesperson Johan Pieterse said 10 seriously injured commuters were taken to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

Seven others were taken to the Tshwane District Hospital with slight injuries.

Commuter Tshepo Mashele, of Mamelodi East, blamed the stampede on the overloading of trains, which he said was a daily occurrence.

"We are exposed to pushing and shoving every day. Unfortunately many people got injured today [Thursday]," he said.

"We don't understand why we are treated like inferior human beings... despite the recent fares hike," he said.

Metrorail introduced a 27 percent train fare hike, on average, on April 1.

Mashele said Thursday's chaos was sparked by poor communication methods and the unreliability of trains.

"People had to push and shove, at the same time having to guess where the train is going. The staff here [at Bosman station] do not communicate with commuters," he said.

Another commuter, Jeff Khupane of Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, warned that if the train service was not urgently improved, more horrific accidents would occur.

"More people have no option but to use these unreliable trains, due to the prohibitive fuel price," he said.

Read more on:    metrorail  |  transport

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