JUST IN: Railway Safety Regulator issues Prasa a temporary safety permit

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has been issued with a temporary safety permit, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) said on Thursday.

It has also, however, issued Prasa with a contravention notice for operating trains on August 1 without a valid safety permit.

In a statement on Thursday, it said the temporary permit was valid only from August 2-August 31.

"It is the view of the RSR that the issuance of a Temporary Safety Permit will assist Prasa in continuing with their operations, but most importantly, provide Prasa with another opportunity to develop robust action plans that will address the identified inadequacies," said RSR's spokesperson Madelein Williams.

Prasa's permit had expired on Tuesday, but it had continued to operate regardless.

RSR previously said Prasa’s permit, which was previously issued with special conditions, had expired at midnight on 31 July and it had taken a decision not to issue a permit until it was satisfied that Prasa’s planned interventions addressed the current safety concerns.

"It is the RSR’s legislative obligation, as an authority responsible for overseeing rail safety, to ensure that operators demonstrate the highest levels of commitment towards the safety of railway operations customers, staff, contractors, visitors and others who may be affected by its railway operations," said Williams.

In the last three months, four trains were targeted by suspected arsonists in the Western Cape.

Most recently, two carriages were set alight at Cape Town station on Saturday, July 28.

Five carriages and overhead power cables were damaged when a train was torched at Retreat station on Thursday, July 26.

Last Saturday, July 21, two coaches were burnt at Cape Town station and the platform's cabling was damaged.

In May, a commuter was killed in a fire near Ottery station while another suffered severe burn wounds.

Last week alone – barring this past Saturday's incident – the damage caused to trains and infrastructure came to a total of more than R50m.

According to Metrorail, six train fires have been recorded this year. Since May 2015, the province's train fleet has lost 149 carriages.

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande on Friday, July 27, visited Prasa's Paarden Eiland depot where he viewed damage to the state-owned enterprise's infrastructure caused during the various arson attacks.