The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s trains have been identified as the greatest threat to personal safety on the country’s rail networks according to the Railway Safety Regulator’s latest safety report.

The report, which highlights crime as a leading cause of abnormal train operations and reportable operational occurrences such as collisions and derailments, notes that Prasa and Transnet account for 97% of reported events with Transnet Freight Rail accounting for 43% and Prasa Rail for 57% the Business Day reported.

A rising trend in security-related events was identified and despite a 5% decrease in operational occurrences, 6 379 security-related incidents were recorded, an increase of 13%, compared with 2015-16.

Deaths on the rise

Deaths related to crime were up by 14% while injuries also rose by 13%.  According to the report theft constitutes 69% of all railway security-related incidents, with the majority of malicious acts of sabotage and vandalism targeted at Metrorail, a unit in the Prasa Rail division.

“Since 2010, on average, the South African railway system experiences one (extrinsic) railway incident and one (intrinsic) operator occurrence every sixteen minutes,” the report says.

The report further notes that close to 60% of occurrences can be directly attributed to human factors, while perway defects contributed 23% and rolling stock-related causes added 10%.

In his foreword, regulator CEO Nkululeko Poya says analyses of root causes of the investigation outcomes show this as overwhelming. “Aspects such as understaffing of safety critical grades, poor levels of supervision, communication deficiencies, when combined with other root causes such as theft and vandalism, signalling and infrastructure defects, remain areas of concern.”

Business Day