A Shosholoza Meyl train was en route to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth when it collided with a truck at the Geneva level crossing in the Free State Photo: Arrive Alive

A Shosholoza Meyl train was en route to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth when it collided with a truck at the Geneva level crossing in the Free State Photo: Arrive Alive

Dr Nomusa Qunta, chairperson of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) says an independent board of inquiry will be established to investigate the circumstances that led to the collision of a Shosholoza Meyl train and a truck in the Free State earlier this month.

Sharing the preliminary findings of the investigation with the media on Wednesday Qunta said the RSR agreed that a board of inquiry needs to be established to investigate the reason for the fire, as well as identify the root cause of the occurrences and provide clarity on what can be done to avoid similar events in the future.

On 4 January, a Shosholoza Meyl train collided with the trailer of an articulated truck at the level crossing nearby Geneva station in the Free State. A total of 19 passengers died, while 260 passengers, crew and staff sustained injuries.

After the train derailed, five coaches caught fire and were severely burnt. Qunta said the cause of some of the fatalities was as a result of the fire that occurred.

Alcohol and speed ruled out

The preliminary findings ruled out the lack of level crossing protection at the site, as it is considered by RSR to be in line with requirements.

Furthermore, at the time of the occurrence, the train was travelling well below the section speed at 78km/h. The section speed in that area is 90km/h.

The driver of the truck tested negative for alcohol. Additionally, there were no noticeable signs of excessive diesel spillage and arcing marks were noticed on the roofs of the carriages.

Line of sight and train compilation under the spotlight

The inquiry will probe the appropriateness of the line of sight for both the truck driver and the train driver.

Another issue that will be pursued further is the train compilation and the correctness of the train consists, and the appropriateness of the train load for the route in question. Train consists are the line-up or sequence of railroad carriages or cars, with or without a locomotive, that form a unit.

The board of inquiry is expected to start its work within two weeks and complete its work in about three months.