A four-point action plan is being sent to deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa‚ in an appeal for his help to resolve the problems besetting rail transport.

The DA’s Manny de Freitas‚ who focuses on transport issues‚ said the party was approaching Ramaphosa in his capacity as leader of government business to drive change in the rail sector to improve safety for commuters as a result of vandalism‚ cable theft and criminal conduct.

He proposes that the government:

• Appoint a capable‚ qualified‚ full-time board and executives at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).

• Implement an emergency safety plan that includes a dedicated police service in the form of railway police to take over security operations‚ "as the current private security company is not fully equipped to combat crime and vandalism".

• Order an urgent update as to the progress made in upgrading the current signal system "so that no manual signal is used‚ to therefore avoid unnecessary incidents of crashes‚ derailments and security issues".

• Ensures Prasa cedes control of Metrorail services and the allocated budget to metro councils to ensure an efficient and safe integrated transportation system is delivered to commuters.

Earlier on Thursday‚ a Metrorail train derailed on the central line in Cape Town‚ just as the company planned to restore its services following a shooting at a Khayelitsha platform last week.

Regional manager Richard Walker said preliminary indications showed that vandalism on the line could be the possible cause of the derailment. "A board of inquiry will confirm the cause of the derailment‚" he said.

The suspension of services affected thousands of commuters that make use of trains daily. Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said: "On average, about 2‚500 people travel per train during week day peaks. Rail safety is stringently regulated and all engineering assessments‚ safety checks and operational logistics must be completed before trains can operate."

On Wednesday, a train derailed in Gauteng‚ after suspected vandalism. This followed a train collision in Germiston on January 9 which left 30 people injured and prompted the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) to issue Prasa with a prohibition directive‚ stopping it from manually authorising trains‚ an action which was said to have caused the collision.

The RSR has since lifted the directive‚ effective from January 12‚ following a meeting between the senior management of the RSR and Prasa.

According to the RSR‚ Prasa submitted a corrective action plan detailing how they intend to address issues pertaining to manual authorisations of trains during degraded train operations‚ which they have accepted.

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