Picture: GALLO IMAGES/RAPPORT/DEON RAATH
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/RAPPORT/DEON RAATH

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) is operating trains without a valid safety permit‚ the country’s Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) said on Wednesday.

The safety permit expired on Tuesday and the regulator decided not to issue a new one until it was satisfied that planned interventions by Prasa to address "safety concerns" had been carried out‚ said regulator spokeswoman Madelein Williams.

"The RSR is of the opinion that Prasa cannot demonstrate to the RSR that it has the ability‚ commitment and resources to properly assess and effectively control the risks to assets and safety of its customers‚ staff‚ contractors‚ visitors and others who may be affected by its railway operations."

The RSR oversees railway safety, while operators are responsible for managing the safety of their operations.

Prasa said on Wednesday afternoon that it was still waiting for an official response from the regulator on its request that its safety permit be extended.

However‚ Prasa said it held a meeting with the regulator a week earlier‚ on July 25‚ where the RSR raised three critical areas for Prasa to address. These were a conditional assessment of all assets under Prasa‚ which required it to submit a plan around its modernisation programme and the filling of critical work grade vacancies.

"Prasa submitted its response for RSR consideration on Tuesday‚ July 31 2018‚ to which the RSR gave an undertaking to respond in 48 hours.

"In light of this‚ Prasa requested an extension of the safety permit to cover the 48-hour timeline‚" Prasa spokeswoman Nana Zenani said.

Zenani said that‚ as of Wednesday afternoon‚ no official response on Prasa’s request for an extension had been received from RSR, except for what was now in the public domain through the media.

"This means that Prasa does not have an official document from RSR that articulates the sentiments shared in the media statement‚" she said.

However‚ Williams said on Wednesday afternoon that Prasa was supposed to file all the documentation that the regulator required by last Friday.

"Prasa failed to submit last Friday‚ but only filed at the close of business on Tuesday, July 31. We indicated to them that we need 48 hours to assess the documentation that we received‚" Williams said.

She said that‚ at the moment‚ Prasa did not have a safety permit and could not operate.

"Our team is currently in discussions with our legal representatives to look at the next step we should take.

"The Railway Safety Regulator Act gives the RSR powers to‚ among others‚ issue a prohibition directive or a contravention notice," Williams said. "And if a contravention notice is ignored‚ we can issue Prasa with a penalty. Criminal charges can also be instituted."

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