Prasa operating permit suspension held over

The North Gauteng High Court has held over the suspension of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's (Prasa) operating permit, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has confirmed.

This is after the RSR imposed a court order on the agency after suspending its permit in terms of section 26 of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act.

"The RSR's decision came as a result of the accident that took place on 4 October 2018 and was further informed by the fact that Prasa Rail cannot demonstrate that it has the ability, commitment and resources to properly assess and effectively control the risks arising from its railway operations," RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Prasa trains will operate as usual despite intended suspension

The regulator said it was concerned about the incident and believed that its concerns were not unwarranted.

However, Williams said that on Sunday, Prasa's board sought an audience with the RSR board, while it filed court papers that were served to the RSR.

"The RSR was expected to file its answering affidavit by 13:00 on the same day. In light of the fact that Prasa had already made an urgent application to the High Court, the meeting could not proceed due to the impending court application," she said.

Risks still a concern

Williams said the court considered the fact that the RSR was not afforded sufficient time to respond to the urgent application and granted parties more time to file their papers, including their heads of arguments.

The parties are expected to report to the court on immediate steps to address safety issues on October 9, while the matter will be heard on October 11.

ALSO READ: Prasa suspension may result in nationwide shutdown of all rail services

"The RSR remains concerned about the risks that permeate the system and will ensure that it adequately presents its concerns when the proceedings convene on 11 October 2018," the statement read.

"These accidents, irrespective of the magnitude, point to major risks within Prasa's operations and could have dire consequences.

"The regulator is, therefore, unable to tolerate the continuation of unsafe practices within Prasa, considering that Prasa mainly serves the poorest of the poor with no alternative means of transport to travel to and from work," the regulator said.

The #UniteBehind coalition said it had been calling on Prasa to develop a commuter-centred safety plan for more than a year but had seen no progress.

"We have now delayed the launch of our court case against Prasa on issues of commuter safety for more than four months, in order to give the new (Interim) Board and management time to get their house in order," coalition spokesperson Matthew Hirsch said in a statement.

"We support the Board and new management, and we empathise with the challenges that they face in a entity in which many key roles are held by agents of State Capture."

The coalition called for the Prasa board to be permanently appointed.

Hirsch added that the RSR's decision to suspend services around the country seemed to be "misguided" as the issues differed between provinces.

"Commuters in Cape Town need a running rail service as there are not affordable alternatives. That need informs our belief that the service should not be suspended unless a system-wide infrastructure failure has been identified," he said.

"We need a safe, reliable and affordable public transport system and commuter rail must be the backbone of our system."

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