Signal failure likely cause of Metrorail double crash

Signal failure is the likely cause behind the two Metrorail train crashes on Monday, Railway Safety Regulator spokesperson Kwazi Kwaza told Mail & Guardian Online on Tuesday.

The collisions occurred within 12 hours of each other and left more than 300 passengers injured.

”We do not know for sure what caused the two crashes, but there are similarities between them,” Kwaza said.

”The trains should not have been travelling so close to each other, which indicates that there was a signal failure.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday blamed the government’s spending decisions for the two accidents.

”Government has chosen to spend money on vanity projects rather than on maintaining our infrastructure,” said DA member of the provincial legislature James Swart.

”The DA has been warning for more than five years that the commuter rail infrastructure in Gauteng is in desperate need of rebuilding. We warned about declining infrastructure after the Soweto rail crash in 2005.

”If money is overspent on the Gautrain, or on a massive square in central Johannesburg, or on parties and unmerited bonuses rather than on necessary safety, then there will be consequences,” he said.

Metrorail spokesperson Sibsusiso Ngomane said the company is conducting an internal investigation into the accidents.

”Our investigators are on the scene and we will let the public know as soon as we pinpoint the cause of the crashes,” he said.

Collision details
About 160 commuters, including a pregnant woman, were injured when a Johannesburg-bound Metrorail passenger train smacked into the back of another shortly after 7am on Monday, according to Metrorail.

The accident occurred between the Lenasia and Midway stations south of Johannesburg.

About 149 people were treated on the scene for minor injuries and the rest were taken to the Lenasia and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals.

Hours later in Springs, 141 passengers were injured when a stationary train was hit from behind by another train.

The trains were not seriously damaged.

The Lenasia-Midway railway line was reopened on Monday at about 1pm. The line through Springs will remain closed until the risk assessment is complete, Ngomane said.

Metrorail has arranged buses to transport stranded commuters in the meantime.

Metrorail said it has a system in place to assist the passengers injured in the crashes.

‘Metrorail regrets the incidents and wishes to confirm our commitment to commuter safety,” Ngomane said.

Safety concerns
The Federations of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) condemned the accidents and spoke out strongly over the lack of commuter safety.

”It is totally unacceptable that there is so little regard for the lives and safety of our rail commuters today,” said Fedusa general secretary Dennis George.

The federation, which represents 400 000 members from various industries, called on the Railway Safety Regulator, the South African Railway Commuter Corporation and Metrorail to conduct a full inquiry into the cause of the accident and compensate injured commuters for their medical costs and loss of income while injured.

An official from Fedusa’s affiliate union, the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu), said they are ”deeply concerned” about Monday’s crashes.

”It is time that safety must be placed before profits,” said the general secretary of Utatu, Chris de Vos.

However, Kwaza said the trains remain a safe means of transport for travellers.

”These crashes were isolated accidents. It was just a bad coincidence that they happened on the same day,” he said.

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Qudsiya Karrim
Qudsiya Karrim is deputy online manager of mg.co.za. She was previously editor of Voices of Africa, the M&G’s blogging platform. She’s also a journalist, social media junkie, mom, bibliophile, wishful photographer and wannabe chef. She has a love-hate relationship with the semicolon and doesn’t care much for people who tYp3 LiK3 ThI$. World peace is important to her, but not as much as a 24/7 internet connection.
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