SAIRR's comparison misleading - PRASA

Many deaths on railways due to suicides or reckless behaviour by passengers and pedestrians


The Rail Operations division of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is disappointed at the statements alleging a high-fatality rate within passenger rail operations by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).

A clear distinction must be made between incidents resulting from reckless behavior by members of the public such as staff-riding, train surfing, level crossing accidents, people dying as a result of cable theft, including illegal crossing of active railway lines, as opposed to legitimate operational accidents.

The majority of people who are killed in the railway environment are those who are struck by trains, including level crossing accidents, and not necessarily employees. In most of these cases, suicide is suspected to be the cause as it is generally easier to access the railway line given the openness of the railway system and proximity to settlements.

In most of these cases, the cause is largely attributed to conduct of members of the public rather than the operator, and it would be incorrect to compare mine accidents, which lead to employee fatalities with incidences involving members of the public who are either struck by trains or involved in level crossing accidents.

It is equally important to understand that the fatalities referred to by the SAIRR do not relate to our own employees as is the case within the mining sector, but are as a result of unsafe behavior by members of the public in our environment.

Over the last three years joint safety campaigns have been mounted by PRASA in partnership with other stakeholders such as Transnet Freight Rail, Railway Safety Regulator and the Railway Police to focus on areas that have the highest impact on personal safety, and we continue to prioritise such campaigns in order to eliminate unsafe behavior in our environment and reduce the number of fatalities.

We are disappointed that the SAIRR finds the need for comparison when it comes to the loss of human life. Any fatality, no matter what the number is, is one life too many, and all efforts must be put in place to avoid any further fatalities and preserve the lives of our people.

Whilst we acknowledge that safety is a challenge for any transport operator including railways, we caution against statements that purport to compare factors that are simply not comparable.

Statement issued by Mosenngwa Mofi, CEO PRASA Rail Operations, January 30 2012

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