The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the parent company of Metrorail, has begun compensating the victims of the train accident that occurred last week Thursday in the capital Pretoria, it was revealed this week.
The government-controlled company said it has put aside R20 million (about 2.2 million USD) outside lawyer and attorney representation to help the victims out – the money it said is over and above the payment of hospital bills, and aimed only at ‘provable’ train accident cases.
No death were reported when two trains collided near Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, resulting to the damage of nearly R22 million (2.4-m USD). A total of 350 people, including children, were examined at the scene of the accident, and out of 200 who were injured, 150 were taken to various hospitals around the city, with the rest released afterwards, the company said in a statement. One train driver and one commuter were critically injured, PRASA said, expressing ‘regret’ and ‘sadness’ for the incident.
Metrorail said the accident was an act of sabotage by striking workers who allegedly stole a cable theft. But South Africa trains, many of which were built with the technology of the 1940’s and 50’s, usually get involved in accidents caused by faulty signals. PRASA has acknowledged the problem and has awarded Siemens a contract worth R2.762 billion over the next seven years for the modernisation of its signalling system in the Gauteng province.
“This contract is for Phase Two of the national re-signalling programme for Gauteng. The contract for Phase One, valued at R1 billion, was awarded in 2011, also to Siemens,” PRASA CEO Lucky Montana said.
Phase 1 of the programme aims to replace a third of the obsolete signalling installation over the next 4 years in Gauteng while Phase 2 would cover the remainder, Montana added.
But South African commuters, who have suffered enough at the hands of archaic and unreliable Metrorail trains and inadequate public transport, will be in for a big surprise when the first new trains hit the railways two years from now. The new trains will have longitudinal seating, air conditioning, CCTV, route map, Wifi, toilets, among others.
The company said a whopping R123 billion has been set aside for the Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme to purchase new trains, and install a new, modern signalling system. It is believed that Metrorail will need about 8600 news trains and 2000 locomotives to meet its transport needs.
Metrorail transports more than 2.3 million commuters every day, with the number of passenger journeys reaching between 600 and 650 million per year, according to official figures.
*Photo by accident.co.za.