Botswana: Accident Avoidable

Mahalapye — A Botswana Railways (BR) senior traffic controller says last December's train accident which claimed two lives could have been avoided.

Mr Reginald Ditlogolo told the board of enquiry looking into circumstances surrounding the mishap on Monday that BR should have suspended train movements given the amount of rainfall that had fallen around the country.

Further, he said since it was raining at the time, the company should at least have issued specific instructions for train drivers to limit their speed.

In addition, he said as cautionary signs should have been put up along the railway line to warn drivers.

Mr Ditlogolo also lamented that the traffic control system in use was obsolete as it showed those on duty only whether or not authority had been granted for a particular train trip.

"The systems that we are using cannot help us see broken lines or wash-aways. The system has collapsed, it's not working," he said.

He as a traffic controller, he was dependent on train drivers and members of the public to report to him if there was a problem.

"I don't see anything (in the system) apart from authority (for the trip). Even if a mad person tells me there is a problem, I will stop the train because the system itself does not show me anything else," he reiterated.

The traffic controller labelled BR management as indecisive leaders who could not make decisions as swiftly as situations demanded.

Another traffic controller, Mr Modise Keabetswe, struggled to respond to whether he found it normal for the locomotive in question to have run from Isang, located between Artesia and Pilane, to Mahalapye without him having interacted with its crew.

Mr Keabetswe however ended up saying it was possible for the train to cover considerable distances without those at the control centre interacting with it.

Wrapping up the first day's proceedings, board chairperson Mr Olefile Moakofi said the hearings would run for six weeks.

The first two weeks, he explained, would be dedicated towards hearing evidence from BR employees, while during week three, passengers who were on board on the fateful day would be interviewed.

Week four, he said, would be reserved for receiving evidence from the general public in Lobatse, Gaborone, Mahalapye, Palapye and Francistown.

The final two weeks would be dedicated to interviewing BR management and board of directors as well as re-examining key witnesses from whom the board may require additional information, Mr Moakofi said.

He said all the hearings, with the exception of those affecting the general public, would be held in Mahalapye.

Mr Moakofi noted that the board of enquiry had until mid-March to have completed the hearings, analysed evidence, compiled and submitted the report on its findings.

The accident, which occurred between Pallaroad and Mahalapye on December 10, saw around 400 passengers safely evacuated and two crew members perishing.

Source : BOPA

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