Seven men were killed when a train collided with a bakkie at a railroad crossing in Blackheath, Cape Town on Friday morning. PHOTO: ANA

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Condolences pour in after seven die when train collides with vehicle in Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, April 27 – Condolences have poured in after seven men died when a train collided with vehicle at a level railway crossing in Blackheath in Cape Town on Friday morning.

There was also strong calls for drivers to obey signals, with initial indications being that the driver of the bakkie had attempted to cross as the train was approaching the Buttskop crossing.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport called on the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) to speedily determine how the frequent and high-counting accidents involving trains and vehicles could be put to a stop.

Chairperson of the Committee Dikeledi Magadzi said the committee was saddened by the Blackheath train-bakkie accident and sent its heartfelt condolences to the families of those who died.

“To have lost so many lives of South African workers is disheartening, almost to a similar incident that involved unsuspecting school children some years ago. Agencies within the Department of Transport must move to ensure that such a similar accident does not reoccur,” Magadzi said.

“This accident speaks to the need to urgently address the maintenance of rail systems especially in the Western Cape, but also generally throughout the country. Our systems are collapsing and putting at risk so many lives,” she added.

Recalling the 2010 accident when 10 school children died when the taxi they were in attempted to cross in front of a train, she said: “Today seven people have also lost their lives, this calls for action. Two accidents on similar circumstances taking so many lives necessitate action.”

“The RSR should thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this kind of carnage exactly in the same spot, only a few years apart,” she said.

Magadzi said the new interim board of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa should do something in improving rail transport and get a world standard everyone desires and what could be done to avert this kind of accidents.

“Communities also need to be vigilant as they cross railways, obey the rules and satisfy themselves that there are no oncoming trains,” emphasised Ms Magazi.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) also urged motorists to exercise caution when crossing railway lines.

“It is horrific that innocent lives of workers are lost because the driver did not take caution at the level crossing. UNTU cannot emphasise the importance of looking before crossing a level crossing enough and have warned motorists about the dangers thereof repeatedly in the past,” said Steve Harris, general secretary of UNTU.

In 2010, ten children died at the same crossing when a train collided with the taxi they were travelling in. The driver, Jacob Humphreys, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in December 2011 for his role in their deaths, but on appeal the sentence was reduced to eight years.

“Depending on the speed, a train will only come to a complete standstill when it applies its emergency break procedure in between 500 metres and one kilometre. There is nothing a train driver can do to prevent a collision if a motorist does not take caution,” said Harris.

UNTU called on authorities to punish drivers found guilty of causing such accidents.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said the victims of Friday morning’s accident were all in their thirties and its believed they were on their way to work.

“The circumstances of the accident are still being investigated,” he said.

The secretary of the African National Congress in the Western Cape, Faiez Jacobs, also condemned the conduct of the truck driver.

“Our understanding is that the train had the right of way and the truck thought it could pass the railway crossing before the train could pass, following other cars that had passed despite not having right of way.

“The ANC sends a stern warning to drivers who are carrying others in their vehicles, particularly taxis and truck drivers not to gamble with other people’s lives. People who lose their lives are never party to these reckless decisions but end up paying the high price,” he said in a statement.

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) also expressed its shock and sadness at the accident.

Sanco spokesperson Jabu Mahlangu said: “Rail level crossings collisions reflect fatal statistics which point to a crisis and by their nature require drastic action, and the raising of the collective consciousness of the greatest number of people possible.”

He said that global police figures show that up to 95 percent of crashes at railway crossings are caused by driver error which is largely attributable to inattention, driver distraction, risk taking, disobeying and lack of knowledge of the road rules and sometimes suicide.

Mahlangu urged Metrorail and Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to robustly engage communities in assisting with the eradication of tragic and unnecessary incidents by obeying all traffic laws governing rail level crossings at all times.

“Signals systems and lights which are out of order must be reported and promptly repaired,” he added.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) has urged motorists to exercise caution when crossing railway lines, this after seven men lost their lives when the bakkie they were travelling in was hit by a train at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath, Cape Town.

In a statement on Friday, the Union expressed its distress after the incident which happened early Friday morning.

“It is horrific that innocent lives of workers are lost because the driver did not take caution at the level crossing. UNTU cannot emphasise the importance of looking before crossing a level crossing enough and have warned motorists about the dangers thereof repeatedly in the past,” said Steve Harris, general secretary of UNTU.

In 2010, ten children died at the same crossing when a train collided with the taxi they were travelling in.

The driver, Jacob Humphreys, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in December 2011 for his role in their deaths, but on appeal the sentence was reduced to eight years.

“Depending on the speed, a train will only come to a complete standstill when it applies its emergency break procedure in between 500 metres and one kilometre. There is nothing a train driver can do to prevent a collision if a motorist does not take caution,” said Harris.

UNTU called on authorities to punish drivers found guilty of causing such accidents.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said the victims of Friday morning’s accident were all in their thirties and its believed they were on their way to work.

“The circumstances of the accident are still being investigated,” he said.

The City of Cape Town’s traffic department said the train and the bakkie wreckage has since been cleared at the crossing.

ANA

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