Metrorail vows action on train smashes

Two accident-hit train lines resumed normal services on Tuesday, as Metrorail announced a number of safety interventions.

“Metrorail has resumed normal services on both the Vereeniging and Springs lines after train collisions disrupted the train service last [Monday] night,” said Metrorail spokesperson Sibusiso Ngomane.

He said a number of safety checks and interventions would be implemented immediately, especially in terms of signalling infrastructure, equipment and practices.

“A national plan for the upgrading of all signalling equipment is at an advanced stage; this will minimise incident risk and ensure speedy transit of trains,” said Ngomane.

A zero-tolerance policy would be adopted if train operations staff and drivers deviated from working rules, particularly signalling procedure.

Earlier, South African Broadcasting Corporation news reported that the South African Rail Commuter Corporation would invest R1,6-billion to upgrade the train-signalling system over the next three years.

This comes after signalling was identified as one the main possible causes behind the accidents which left hundreds of commuters injured.

Ngomane said Metrorail would also be increasing the number of medical and substance-abuse tests it conducted on its staff.

While he was not aware of any specific accidents having been caused by substance abuse or health issues—such as poor eyesight or hearing—increased testing would be a “precautionary measure”.

“Metrorail would like to conduct these kinds of tests and health checks both on a weekly basis, as well as occasionally as an ad hoc measure,” he said.

Metrorail will also ensure that up-to-date and experience-based driver training is provided, said Ngomane.

“To this end, the organisation is in the process of purchasing a simulator for train-driver training.

“Metrorail regrets these accidents and would like to thank its customers for their patience and understanding during this period,” said Ngomane.

On Tuesday, South African Rail Commuter Corporation CEO Lucky Montana said that in Gauteng alone R800-million would be put aside over the next three years for signalling upgrades.

“[This is] so that the signalling system can be world-class, can be reliable and we can move trains faster and more safely.

“These measures will go a long way in making sure ... that we deliver quality services to passengers,” he said.

About 160 commuters, including a pregnant woman, were injured when a Johannesburg-bound Metrorail passenger train smashed into the back of another on Monday morning.

Hours later in Springs, two other trains collided head-on, leaving more than 130 people injured.—Sapa

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