The South African Federation of Trade Unions sends its condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in yesterday’s train crash in the Free State and best wishes to the more than 250 who were injured for a full and speedy recovery.
It is a tragedy that so many lives are lost in accidents at the time of year when people are celebrating and trying to relax. Many of those affected were probably returning home from holiday in the train, which was traveling for Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg.
Everything must be done to establish the cause of this accident, which happened at a level crossing where the train hit a truck, which was crossing. All such crossings need to be checked to ensure that there are adequate warning signs and alarm signals for motorists. Those who ignore such warnings must be severely punished for putting lives at risk, as it is impossible for train drivers to stop in time to prevent a crash when a vehicle is on the track.
It is not only in the holiday season that far too many lives are lost in accidents. In 2016 a shocking 14,071 people died on South Africa’s roads. There is little hope of a big improvement in the figure for last year. The rules of the road must be enforced much more systematically, especially those to deal with the problem of drunk drivers and the growing problem of the use of cell-phones while driving.
In our country we lose on average lose 45 lives in a single day! Every effort must be made to change the culture of the drivers but also the enforcement of the road laws more consistently across all the provinces. The “arrive alive” campaign must be driven throughout the year not just on big holidays such as Xmas and the Easter weekend.
On the railways commuters must no longer have to struggle to find a space in overcrowded and dilapidated trains and risk losing their jobs because of delays and cancellations of services.
PRASA must be transformed and democratised. They have to get rid of those corrupt executives who have used it as a means of enriching themselves and the incompetent officials who negotiated a deal for the delivery of trains which were the wrong size for South Africans railways.
Safe, reliable and affordable transport is a right and much more must be done to make this a reality.