Railway safety report notes more criminal injuries

The 2014 SA Railway Safety report notes 456 fatalities and 1498 injuries, with 379 of the injuries due to crime (an increase of 205%).

The 2014 State of Railway Safety report is compiled from data of rail operators who report their incidents and occurrences to the RSR, where is it collated and analysed. The report was published in Johannesburg in November 2014 by Nkululeko Poya, CEO of the Railway Safety Regulator.

Rail incident or occurrence information is classified in accordance with the South African National Standard SANS 3000-1 of 2009, broadly separated into operational occurrences and security-related incidents.

An increase of 7% in operational occurrences compared to the previous year is due to contributing factors listed by SANS 3000-1 categories as:

A: Collisions of rolling stock; 21%
B: Derailments; 16%
E: People struck by trains; 13%
H: Occurrences at platform-train interchange; 16%
L: Fires; 12%

“During the 2013/14 reporting period a total of 456 fatalities and 1 498 injuries as a result of operational occurrences were recorded. It is a relief to report that there was a 16% decline in injuries,” said Poya. (See data on the doubling of criminal injuries below)

In most instances where people were killed or injured during rail movements, the train driver was not involved, or tried to stop. Many drivers have been severely traumatised and psychologically affected.

Collisions and derailments mainly have financial impacts, while the others are the main contributors towards fatalities and injuries. Collisions remain the highest number of occurrences.

South Africa defines collisions with objects on the track, as including stray animals, livestock, debris and vehicles at marked level crossings and illegal crossings.

“One of our grave concerns is the increasing number of people who are killed as a result of being struck by trains. An 11% increase in such was recorded, which is indicative of the increasing number of people who are moving closer to the vicinity of the rail reserve and rail operations.

“This is one category under which a number of people are in most instances fatally or severely injured; 588 occurrences were recorded. This indicates a 2% increase.”

Railway Police renamed Rapid Rail Police
South African Railway Police Services, soon to be renamed Rapid Rail Police, data suggests that there were 14 903 people arrested for crossing a railway line.

Some of the people being fatally or severely injured, live too close to the railway lines, need access to certain amenities which forces them to cross the railway line, or play on railway lines.

Category D, level crossing incidents, totalled 119, a mere 2% of the total occurrences, yet it caused 18 deaths, 66 injuries, and huge public emotional impacts.

Some occur at places where there is no designated legal crossing and are thus illegal to road users and pedestrians. “It becomes a headline news item, creating the impression that this a almost daily type of occurrence. The public shows shock and dismay, rightly so, when schoolchildren, farm workers and students are killed when struck by a train.

“The majority of these occurrences could be avoided, and the RSR therefore include this category in the main focus areas for research studies and community awareness campaigns in the next year,” said Poya.

The number of level crossing occurrences seems to have reduced or stabilised in the last four years.

Gautrain platforms much safer
Fatalities and injuries due to platform-train interface remain high on the RSR agenda. This category contributed 16% to the total number of operational occurrences.

There were 715 occurrence entries made under this category with passenger rail operators, named PRASA Rail, taking a lead with a 98% contribution to the total in this category.

Gautrain recorded a zero occurrence under this category. Other operators reported seven fatalities and 690 injuries under this category. The challenges include overcrowding.

Rain safety incident costs
The two main operators recorded costs directly linked to operational occurrences and security incidents of over a half a billion rand. TFR recorded R411 million.

The highest cost driver for was derailments, however not all the recorded costs for derailments were during normal train operations. Some derailments were during abnormal railway operations such as occupations, maintenance shut down, or removal of scrap wagons or rolling stock using normal lines.

PRASA Rail recorded R130 million direct cost of incidents. There was an almost 20% train fires reduction and an almost 100% reduction in derailments cost in PRASA Rail. PRASA Rail dominantly operates within the suburban areas near road traffic.

Crime takes a health and safety toll
“The rail environment has not escaped the eyes and hands of criminals. Security related incidents increased by 13% to 4703 incidents,” said Poya.

TFR and PRASA accounted for 95% of security-related incidents, notably theft and vandalism of electrical and signal cables, leading to significant service disruptions and disabling safety critical train control subsystems.

Theft and vandalism impact negatively on the safety of train operations and increases the cost of operations. Most of the security incidents took place in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

The main rail security incident categories are:
Theft of assets v operational safety; 65%
Malicious damage v operational safety; 22%
Personal safety on trains; 6%
Personal safety on stations; 5%
Personal safety near platforms; 1%.

Ten fatalities and 379 injuries were recorded due to crime and security-related incidents. The 379 injuries represents an increase of 205%.

Nkululeko Poya is CEO of the Railway Safety Regulator. The reporting period is 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. RSR compilers include Kenny Makgati, Molepo Seabela, and Freddie Kgomari. Investigators are led by Solly Kekana and Mr Fumbata.

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.