Deaths on railways total 457

2012-06-12 00:00

CAPE TOWN — No fewer than 457 people died on South Africa’s railways during the year ended March 2011, according to report on the safety of trains in South Africa of which sister Beeld has as copy.

The deaths include fatalities caused by train accidents and derailments, which mostly involved Transnet and the passenger rail agency, Prasa. A total of 1 534 people were injured during that period.

The report, titled State of Safety, was drawn up by the SA rail regulator after an investigation was conducted from April 1, 2010, to March 31, 2011.

The main causes of deaths were from colliding trains, derailments, people being hit by a train at a level crossing, commuters who changed trains and pedestrians hit by trains on tracks.

The year covered by the report saw 895 derailments. The report said the cost of all railway and safety incidents in this period was R941 million for Transnet and R123 million for Prasa.

In Transnet’s case the amount is treble that of the preceding year.

The regulator found that vandalism and theft of railway assets had increased considerably, with 1 242 cases of vandalism reported — 88% increase on the preceding year.

The report blames the poor condition of trains and rails for the derailments and train accidents.

The government had not reacted at the time of going to press.

Mike Asefovitz, a Transnet spokesperson, said the company had a giant challenge when it comes ensuring safety over its entire railway network.

“We manage 8 000 trains a day over a network of 20 000 km.”

Asefovitz said vandalism and cable theft held enormous implications for Transnet. He said the impact of cable theft was not just financial but often led to fatalities.

Transnet specialises in rail transport while Prasa transports passengers via Metrorail in South Africa’s largest metropolitan areas and between cities with Shoshaloza Meyl. Both are parastatal companies.

The South African Institute of Race Relations said in an earlier study on mine accidents that up to five times more people died on the country’s railways than in SA’s mines.

Kerwin Lebone of the institute said yesterday the government was worried about mining fatalities, but seemed less concerned about the many more deaths on government-controlled railways.

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