Thousands of South Africans who are plagued by the many safety problems and challenges posed by rail commuting on a daily basis may find some relief through the Railway Safety Bill.
That is, if the Bill is put into practice properly.
The main aim of the Bill is improving train users’ general safety and security, and to once again make rail transport an attractive option.
As matters stand, rail transport is one of the many spokes in the South African economic wheel which has basically fallen out completely under ANC rule.
Rail freight transport has almost come to a standstill as far as operational efficiency is concerned and has recently had a major negative impact on the power run of the country’s commodities.
Over the years, the agricultural community erected storage silos next to railway lines to facilitate transport. Under ANC rule, these have mostly turned into white elephants, to the detriment of the economy and the country’s roads.
The Bill focuses sharply on training, based on the presumption that well-trained persons should execute critical tasks. That includes train drivers, technicians and security personnel. The ANC has, however, proven time and again that cadres take precedence over expertise.
Public hearings on the Bill were held in all nine provinces and attendance was good. The public’s submissions made a significant contribution to some of the amendments to the Bill.
Most of these relate to the daily challenges affecting ordinary commuters’ safety, such as unsafe crossings, inadequate fencing, cable theft leaving trains and passengers stranded in remote locations for hours, and rush-hour passengers scrambling to get seats resulting in injuries.
Other complaints related to dirty stations and toilets being out of order, and particularly the lack of security on trains and stations where passengers are often randomly attacked and robbed by perpetrators operating in groups.
The public has very little faith in the current security officers and wants to see members of the police force return to trains and stations.
The fact that Transnet refused to partner with the private sector makes the chances of these plans being successfully implemented very slim. The ANC is utterly unable to improve anything.
In fact, government is to blame for the decline and it also does not have the funds to upgrade the transport system.
Under a competent government, this Bill could bring about drastic and much-needed improvements. That will never happen under ANC rule, though.
In 2024, voters will have the opportunity to elect a competent government by getting rid of the ANC once and for all.