Parly's transport committee grills Prasa on lack of progress

Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Transport grilled the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's (Prasa) presentation at a meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday, for lacking urgency and progress.

The meeting comes after the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) communicated its intention to suspend Prasa's safety permit.

The suspension was apparently because of a train-on-train collision at Van Riebeeck station in Kempton Park during manual authorisation last week.

However, Prasa delayed the suspension that would have caused a nationwide shutdown of all rail services by approaching the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to hold the RSR's urgent application over.

"People are saying we should not have gone to court, but if commuters went to the station on Monday and there were no trains – there would have been riots," Prasa board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama said.

ANC MP Sheilla Xego agreed with this approach, but reminded them that the remedy was temporary.

"What have you done since the notice of suspension, in terms of self-correction? Are you able to convince the RSR of your improvement?"

Prasa CEO Sibusiso Sithole listed the eight conditions to the safety permit and gave short summaries regarding their progress.

New strategies and short-term plans were presented in detail.

However, the portfolio committee remained unimpressed.

One of the plans included the completion of Gauteng's electronic signalling – which is currently 71.9% complete.

The absence of electronic signalling requires manual authorisation. Manual authorisation contributed to the Kempton Park train collision on October 4.

"Four years ago we were told that electronic signalling in Gauteng was 80% complete when we visited. What is happening? Has there been a reversal or has nothing happened in all that time?" ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane asked.

Sithole explained that the delay was the result of cable theft and the vandalisation of signalling equipment.

Ramatlakane said he had already heard the plans the board had laid out.

"We were told the same plans a year ago by the Department of Transport. Who is fooling who?" he asked the Prasa board.

"Remove this woolish language and tell us how it is."

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