Botswana: Track Master Gave Green Light - Witness

Mahalapye — One of the witnesses in the public enquiry into the December 2019 Botswana Railways train accident Mr Phillip Makhokhoba has said he was concerned about the possibility of a train accident which occurred on December 09 because there were heavy rains around Mahalapye area.

Mr Makhokhoba, a senior traffic controller at Botswana Railways with 39 years experience, said he resumed duty at 0800hrs of the fateful day and at around 1530hrs the heavy rain started and in the interest of safety he asked one of the track masters who was on duty that day whether the track was safe for the train and answered in the affirmative.

He said he was concerned because the rain was heavy and it might not have been safe to run the train and he was also not comfortable about the reply that he got from the track master because a lot of water was flowing around the headquarters towards the railway line.

He said he then called the track master again on his phone and asked him to make sure that he checked again but he assured him that it was safe to run the train.

Mr Makhokhoba said he put the message in the whatsup group which they created to ease communication informing them that the situation was not good to run the train hoping that somebody might instruct them to stop the train but nobody responded.

He said he put the message on social media group because he was hopeful that somebody was going to give him instructions because all his supervisors were also in the group.

Asked on whether the track master on that day used the trolleys to thoroughly check the conditions of the track, Mr Makhokhoba said he was not sure on how the track master checked the area.

He said he assumed that the track master did what was necessary to check the area.

Mr Makhokhoba told the enquiry that an hour after he knocked off, he was informed by one of his colleagues that the train had derailed.

He said if he had the authority he could have stopped the train and inspected the area.

Another witness, Mr Lazarous Motlogelwa who is also a traffic controller at Botswana Railways told the enquiry board that when he resumed for duty on December 09 he was assured that the north -bound train from Lobatse was safe to dispatch.

He said when the train reached Pilane he informed the crew to proceed at 40 km/h speed due to heavy rains at Mahalapye area.

He said he was sure that his message went through because one of the crew members responded. Mr Motlogelwa however said before the accident the train was doing well at precautionary speed.

Asked on whether the same crew that was cautioned to do 40km/ hr was the one that was doing 64km/hr, Mr Motlogelwa said it was the same crew.

He agreed that the crew ended up doing the high speed. He acknowledged that they received information about the anticipated floods from the Radio Botswana and meteorological services.

Source : BOPA

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