Vandals causing delays, deaths

2016-11-24 06:01
Nkululeko Poya, the CEO for Rail Safety Regulator (RSR), Sindisiwe Chikunga, the deputy minister of transport and Mandisa Matshoba, Member of Parliament (MP) during the Transport Imbizo, at Gugulethu Sport Complex, on Friday. PHOTO: Mbongiseni Maseko

Nkululeko Poya, the CEO for Rail Safety Regulator (RSR), Sindisiwe Chikunga, the deputy minister of transport and Mandisa Matshoba, Member of Parliament (MP) during the Transport Imbizo, at Gugulethu Sport Complex, on Friday. PHOTO: Mbongiseni Maseko

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The vandalism and theft of rail infrastructure was lambasted as the main factor behind the delays that trouble the railways system and put lives of commuters at risk.

This much was revealed during the Transport Imbizo held at the Gugulethu Sport Complex last Friday.

The Imbizo provided a platform for Sindisiwe Chikunga, the Deputy Minister of Transport to engage communities and stakeholders on the challenges experienced by the transport industry.

Chikunga said the stealing of cables and the signals along railway lines result in train delays and at times, in fatal accidents.

She also lambasted protesters who feel it is fit to destroy rail infrastructure.

“Some of the incidents where trains get burnt down are caused by frustrated commuters who feel let down by late trains. They do not understand that the causes of that are cable thefts or vandalism to infrastructure.

We cannot condone destructive behaviour by anybody. Some of the train accidents are caused by vandalism caused by service delivery protesters. We cannot be a country that is known for destruction,” Chikunga said.

She also said about 450 people die on railway lines in the country every year and that most of the deaths are suicidal or are due to accidents caused by stolen signals.

“It is possible for zero fatality on railway lines. A train is too big for anyone not to notice(it coming),” she added.

Chikunga was accompanied by Nkululeko Poya, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Rail Safety Regulator (RSR), Mandisa Matshoba, the Member of Parliament (MP), councillor Sharon Manata, former soccer players, actors and actresses who are ambassadors for rail safety and the clergy.

The RSR was established in terms of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act, to oversee and promote safe railway operations through appropriate support, monitoring and enforcement, guided by an enabling regulatory framework.

In the interest of rail safety, RSR also collects and disseminates information relating to safe railway operations to the public by means of rail safety awareness campaigns.

Poya said he has seen a number of people disobeying the safety of trains which gave him sleepless nights.

“I once saw a mother with her children crossing the rail line and they claimed that they do not want to walk on the bridge over the rail line, because they feel it is not safe.

I see that action as irresponsible and dangerous. We are here to highlight the unsafe behaviour which is avoidable.

Think differently and change your behaviour to ensure that railways are safe. We use football games with soccer legends to get the message about safety to young people,” Poya said.

Nomonde Mbebe, a resident, raised her concern about train stations that are not user-friendly for disabled commuters.

“The stations are not designed to be user-friendly for disabled people.

I struggle when I have to board a train. We are not taken care of when it comes to using trains as disabled people,” she said.

Mbebe walks with an artificial leg.

Richard Walker, regional manager for Metrorail Western Cape, said they have plans in place to build a user friendly stations and trains for disabled people.

“The challenge that we have is that our stations were built over 150 years ago. We are looking at correcting the mistakes that were done long ago.

We have since built lifts in some of our stations, but they have since been vandalised. We are improving our stations. We also have plans of introducing new trains that will be user friendly for disabled people.”

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