Railway Safety Regulator lifts ban issued to Prasa using manual authorisation

Johannesburg - The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has lifted its ban issued to Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) using manual authorisation for train operations, subject to certain conditions, with immediate effect, the regulator announced on Saturday. 

This comes after a meeting between the senior management of the RSR and the Prasa on January 12. 

A decision was also taken to invoke Section 45a of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act 16 of 2002 in instances where Prasa has contravened the directive.

On January 9, a train rear-end crash at a station in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, left at least 200 commuters injured.  

A few days earlier, near the Geneva station in the Free State, 19 people on a Shosholoza Meyl train were killed when a train hit the trailer of a truck carrying soya beans.

At the time, Prasa said the RSR's directive to stop manual authorisation of where and when trains can travel would push passenger numbers into road transport, increasing traffic.

Prasa added that it could not abide by the directive because passengers would be stranded and likely become furious, possibly leading to even more damage to the already ailing infrastructure if they lashed out.

General manager at RSR, Madelein Williams said Prasa submitted a corrective action plan to the RSR that detailed how they intend to address issues pertaining to manual authorisations of trains during degraded train operations. 

Williams said they were satisfied that the Prasa had adequately demonstrated their commitment to address safety concerns raised by the regulator.

RSR had also instructed Prasa to implement the corrective action plan with immediate effect and to comply with strict special conditions imposed by the RSR. 

"The said conditions were developed with the aim of prioritising areas of concern and to ensure the safe movement of trains at all times.

The conditions relate to the improvement of the telecommunication system, strengthening of supervision, development of verbal communication protocols and improved monitoring."

Prasa is expected to submit monthly progress reports.

Williams said the RSR would further strengthen its own monitoring efforts through targeted inspections to ensure full compliance with the conditions. 

"Should Prasa default on any of the conditions, the prohibition directive will be reinstated.  The RSR expects unequivocal compliance with all special conditions and urges Prasa to commit to the improvement of safe railway operations."