31 January 2013

South Africa: Cosatu Shocked At Train Crash

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply shocked at this morning’s horrific train crash near Pretoria, in which at least 150 people, including 50 schoolchildren, were injured. The federation sends its best wishes to all the injured - including one of the train drivers whose condition is said to be critical - for a speedy and complete recovery.

The accident – in which two commuter trains collided - exposes one again the problems facing working-class commuters who battle to get to work or school each morning. Public transport, just like education and healthcare, operate a two-tier service, which continues to perpetuate the socioeconomic inequalities we inherited from the apartheid era.

While the Gautrain provides a top-class, safe and reliable service for the well-to-do minority in the Northern suburbs, the poor majority have to risk their lives in a totally inadequate, unreliable and unsafe public transport system run by the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (PRASA).

We urge PRASA to move with urgency to replace their antiquated trains with the 3 600 new train cars they have ordered as part of a 10-year programme to overhaul its ageing rail network.

COSATU demands a full and thorough investigation into the cause of the accident, in particular the allegation that it may have been the result of cable theft, and if this is true, for the SAPS to find, arrest and prosecute those responsible.

Meanwhile PRASA must do everything possible to tighten up its safety precautions to prevent any recurrence of such accidents.

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