A preliminary investigation by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has found that the fatal crash at Mountainview railway station in Pretoria on Tuesday 8 January was a result of a breakdown in communication between the driver and Train Control Officer, among other things.
Four people died and many more were injured when one train, en route to Pretoria Station, collided with the rear of another train, destined for the Belle Ombre station. Both trains departed from the Mabopane station and were carrying passengers.
In a statement issued, the RSR said based on the data received from PRASA, the section from Pretoria North to Mountainview has been operating under manual authorisation since November 2018.
The report indicate that there was a breakdown in communication between the Train Control Officer (TCO) and the train driver that was en route to the Pretoria Station.
“After the train driver repeated the authority incorrectly, the TCO acknowledged the incorrect authority. This resulted in the train entering the section between the Pretoria North and Mountainview station wrongfully.
“The train driver and TCO did not comply with the Language Policy when authorising,” said the regulator.
The RSR said the damage observed on the coaches of both trains indicates that the train to Pretoria Station may have been travelling at a considerable speed.
During abnormal trains working, in particular when trains are manually authorised, trains are required to travel at a speed of 30km/h. The exact speed will, however, only be confirmed once the event recorder data is received and analysed by the RSR.
Acting RSR acting Chief Executive Officer, Tshepo Kgare, said accidents such the Mountainview incident indicate that PRASA is in contravention of its own standard operating procedures as well as the directives of the regulator.
“The RSR has consistently highlighted the risks inherent to prolonged periods of manual train authorisations and continues to compel PRASA to provide proper control and supervision of manual train authorisation. However, we keep on seeing a recurrence of incidents attributable to this method of operation. Even after being issued with a court order to improve safety on its operations, PRASA continues to demonstrate the highest levels of lethargy and disregard for rail safety in their operations,” she said.
The RSR will continue its investigation in order to establish the contributing factors and the root cause of the collision.
It also sent commiserations to the families of the deceased and wishes those injured and admitted to hospital a speedy recovery.