Black driver responsible for train crash

Train driver error, failure of the track and non-compliance with procedures were the causes of a train accident in Mzimhlophe last year that left 857 passengers injured, a board of inquiry said on Friday.

Nineteen Metrorail black drivers face disciplinary hearings for offences ranging from speeding to not heeding danger signals.

“It was very clear to the board of inquiry that the driver was a high risk individual,” said board investigator Chris Dutton at a press briefing in Johannesburg. Dutton also took to task the implementation of disciplinary procedures at Metrorail.

He said section managers should have picked up on the issues with the driver’s performance.

The driver had previously been cited for speeding and other disciplinary infractions.

The report also slated Metrorail for its poor communication system and track maintenance as underlying causes of the accident.

Train operators do not have working radios and must rely on cellphones to communicate with stations.

The report also said the reason the two trains were on the same track, making the accident possible, was due to another track not being repaired after it had been washed away in a storm six month before.

The accident took place on May 2011 when a train from Johannesburg to Naledi collided with the rear of a stationary train on the same track.

The accident happened between Mzimhlophle and Phomoleng stations.

Metrorail boss, Mosenngwa Mofi has confirmed that the train driver involved has been fired. On 19 May 2011, a Metrorail train that was travelling from Mzimhlophe station, towards Phomolong station in Orlando, collided with a stationary Soweto Business Express train, injuring 857 people. No fatalities have been reported.

Mofi confirmed that disciplinary action was taken against the driver involved in the train accident, the process has been completed and the driver has been dismissed.

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Mofi said the driver, who was earlier put on a 12-month warning for speeding, was traveling at 87km/h in a 30 km/h zone when the accident occurred. He is also said to have skipped two signals at danger (passing a stop signal without authority to do so). “The safety of our passengers is not negotiable. We’ve agreed to take a zero tolerance approach against train drivers who pass signals at danger,” he said.

According to Mofi, a total of 19 train drivers are currently facing disciplinary hearings for offences ranging from speeding to passing warning signals. He said these acts are viewed in a serious light and swift action will be taken against those found guilty. Mofi said they will continue working with the Rail Safety Regulator in its ongoing investigation.

“Metrorail will not tolerate any deviation from the updated and strengthened safety procedures and will take stern action against any transgression by our employees. Our main mandate and commitment is to transport our passengers safely to and from their areas of work, school and recreation,” he said.

Last month, on the Mabopane route, two trains en route to Pretoria collided, leaving one dead and scores injured.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) boss, Lucky Montana, said they were concerned about the two train accidents that happened two months in succession due to human error. “We view the accidents in a very serious light and we want to reaffirm to the public and commuters that our system is based on strict safety policies, rules and procedures.”. – SAPA/BUA