Botswana: Operations Manager Responsible for Train Cancellations

Mahalapye — A witness has told the ongoing public inquiry into the December 2019 Botswana Railways (BR) passenger train accident that the operations manager had responsibility to cancel train trips.

Mr Tumelo Keitumetse, an assistant civil engineer-north, said the operations department had this month alone effected two train cancellations.

He said this in response to a question from the board on who was responsible for ordering training cancellations when circumstances dictated that train movements be halted.

The witness, however, indicated that he could not recall incidences in which trains had been cancelled.

Regarding the train that derailed in December 10 near Bonwapitse River, Mr Keitumetse informed the board that prior to resuming the north-bound trip from Lobatse, the train's crew had inquired whether the railway line was safe since there had been reports of rain.

He said when no response to the inquiry was forthcoming on the WhatsApp group where the issue was being discussed, he contacted one Mr Thupane, a civil engineer-south, who gave the trip a green light.

Nonetheless, he stated that he, together with a couple of others in the group, had suggested on December 9 that trains movements be suspended given the weather conditions.

On the issue of how often his section patrolled the railway line, Mr Keitumetse told the board that while they used to use trolleys for inspections, they more often relied on foot patrols since the former was often not in good working order.

Mr Keitumetse pegged the frequency of foot patrol inspections to once monthly.

However, he noted that during rainy seasons or when there were threats of rains, inspections became more frequent particularly for spots prone to flooding.

As for whether those operating trolleys had been trained for such a duty, the witness said BR had trained one permanent way inspector and some track workers on the operation of the trolleys.

A Pallaroad-based track worker Mr Goitsemodimo Mogorosi, who said he had been instructed, together with some colleagues, to check water levels at Bonwapitse River on December 9, told the board that they had indeed found some water but that its levels were low.

Mr Mogorosi, who indicated that they often did foot patrols, said the shortage of trolleys affected the inspection and patrolling of the rail line.

Another track worker, Mr Thabo Koomantswe concurred with his colleague that the water levels at Bonwapitse were still low.

Mr Koomantswe, who told the board that they had had a breakdown while inspecting the track between Mahalapye and Pallaroad the day before the accident, said at around 10pm while still awaiting help, water had started flowing in, raising the water levels.

He said since it was dark, they had not been able to do a proper assessment of the volumes of the water by the time they received assistance.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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