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The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) on Wednesday said that it had not received any official report of hijacking incidents taking place despite the fact that this is now a growing problem around the country.

The RSR said it noted with concern the claims made by the United National Transport Union and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) subsequent response regarding Metrorail train hijackings.

“To date, the events in question have not been reported officially by PRASA to the RSR. It is the responsibility of operators to report railway occurrences and incidents to the RSR. The reporting of security incidents to the RSR by the railway operators is provided for in the South African National Standards (SANS 3000-1:2009 Edition 2 under SANS Category 4 – Hijacking of trains),” explained spokesperson Madelein Williams.

Last reported hijacking in 2012

According to Williams the last train hijacking was reported to the RSR in January 2012.

“Our records show that the driver of a Metrorail train was threatened with a knife by two males who boarded the train at Duff’s Road in KwaZulu-Natal at 20h50, forcing him to drive to Phoenix which was not his original route. On arrival at Phoenix, the driver applied the emergency brake and jumped off the train. The two males also got off the train at Phoenix and fled.”

The United National Transport Union lifted the lid on rail hijackings on Tuesday calling for increased security on and around passenger trains following an increase in trains being hijacked by angry commuters and staff and passengers being robbed.

Manual authorisations

Meanwhile the RSR has disputed claims of a connection between manual authorisations and train hijackings.

“Manual train authorisations are an accepted international practice for all train operators during degraded modes of operation, for example, signal failures. The RSR would like to highlight that there is no link between manual authorisations and train hijackings,” Williams noted.

According to the regulator the speed limit during manual authorisation has been in place since February 2013, following an accident between two Metrorail trains which collided between Cor Delfos and Kalafong Stations on 31 January 2013.

The regulator explained that at the time, a directive was issued under Section 36 of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act No 16 2002 (as amended) restricting the maximum speed at which a train may be authorised to travel during degraded modes operation to 30km/h.”

“The RSR would like to reiterate that manual authorisation is a fall back procedure. However, in PRASA’s case manual authorisation has become the norm instead of the exception due to the high rate of vandalism and theft of safety critical equipment, such as signal and telecommunications equipment,” it concluded.

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