Passengers burn train coaches in Free State

Passengers set alight five coaches of the long distance rail service, Shosholoza Meyl, on Monday after a locomotive broke down in the Free State.

Shosholoza Meyl acting chief executive Viwe Mlenzana said the train from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg, with about 150 passengers on board, was set alight at Virginia at 6.15am on Monday.

“While arrangements were being made for a replacement locomotive, the passengers became very angry and started to threaten Shosholoza Meyl employees on board,” he said in a statement.

“The damage to the train is estimated at R9-million.” No one on board was injured in the incident.

Mlenzana said buses were organised to take passengers from the scene to their destinations.

The line was closed for most of Monday, while the wreckage was cleared. It was expected to be open again by Monday afternoon.

Trains departing on Monday evening from Johannesburg to the Eastern Cape were not expected to be affected.

Shosholoza Meyl said trains en route to Johannesburg were affected.

Referring to the locomotive breakdown, Mlenzana said all locomotives went through roadworthy testing as part of Shosholoza Meyl’s maintenance programme to ensure continuous running.

“Shosholoza Meyl does not condone acts of violence and the public should be aware that burning of trains is a crime and the perpetrators will face the might of the law,” he said.

A board of inquiry had been set up to investigate the circumstances that led to the incident.—Sapa

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