While Metrorail battles with continued destruction of its infrastructure, the number of deaths on railway lines has increased in the 2016-2017 period. The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) on Monday reported that approximately 495 fatalities have been recorded. This indicating an increase of 8 per cent compared to the 2015-2016 reporting period.
The general manager of research of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), Dr Cornel Malan, explains that the highest contributing category of train fatalities is people who are struck by on-coming trains, which she says it directly linked to a lack of fencing and enclosures of the railway lines.
She says that after assessing each province, the three provinces in which the most train fatalities occurred were Gauteng with close to 30 per cent, KwaZulu-Natal with 27 per cent and the Western Cape with 19 per cent contribution towards the total number of incidents reported.
“It is in those areas that are densely populated and have the highest volume of trains on a daily basis,” Malan said.
With the main objective of providing an oversight function, RSR is not mandated to maintain safety within the railway system. A responsibility she says rests with the company that runs the trains, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
Malan says that safety on the railway also rests with commuters.
“People that move into the space or that live close to the railway that we need to make aware that you won’t necessarily hear the train and [so] you can’t just cross the railway at any point. You need to cross the railway at a designated place.”
RSR is advocating for improved education on railway safety within schools and communities, in order to deter commuters from riding on the outside of trains, standing in open doorways and crossing railway tracks at non-designated sections.
The regulator in collaboration with the main metros and Technical Level Crossing Committees in all nine provinces are working to ensure that when new settlements are established that not only road transport is taken into consideration, but also the planning of railways.
“Part of spatial planning, from a municipal point of view, should be to make sure that people can access what’s on the other side of the rail in a safe way.”