Parliament, Monday, 21 November 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Transport was urged to ensure that South Africa’s railway safety standards are on par with best practice internationally. This, according to the community of Rustenburg, will ensure that people feel safe when using the railway system and enable the transportation of goods to shift from road to rail.

The committee concluded its public hearings on the Railway Safety Bill in the North West province. The committee is confident that the quality inputs made will greatly enhance the Bill and ensure that the Railway Safety Regulator is empowered to operate efficiently within a developing industry.

The participants’ call for international bench-marking was premised on the need to achieve a functional economy that can move people and freight quickly and cheaply. Participants highlighted that a safe railway system will enable economic growth, which is essential for South Africa’s economic development. They also suggested that the safety standard adopted by Gautrain should be adopted across the board.

Participants also strongly emphasised that the Bill should legislate a provision forcing operators to regularly consult with communities on implementing the Bill and adhering to safety standards. Participants also called for the Bill to be implemented effectively, as currently many progressive laws that are intended to benefit the people are not well-executed. Furthermore, provision should also be made to insulate the inspection proposed in Section 42 from corruption to ensure safety standards are adhered to.

Also, some participants called for Parliament, through the Portfolio Committee on Transport, to play a more active role in the appointment process of the board, rather than only be notified by the Minister, as proposed in Section 11 (5) of the Bill. According to participants, this will lead to a more participatory and transparent process.

As with the hearings in Klerksdorp, participants emphasised the need for cooperation and collaboration, as spelt out in Section 7 (2) (b) of the Bill and as it relates to collaboration with the South African Police Service. This will ensure commuter safety when using the railway system.

Despite the fact that many participants raised various challenges with the rail system in its current form, the Bill received overwhelming support in North West. The committee noted that while some of the challenges raised were safety issues, they were not directly related to the Bill. These concerned things like the lack of fencing and rail crossing infrastructure, as well as dilapidated rail infrastructure, which all make the rail system unsafe for members of the public. The committee committed to take those concerns to the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises.

Participants called for more development of railway infrastructure, as this will expand commuter choice, allowing them scope to choose which mode of transport to use on the basis of safety and affordability.

The committee will next weekend hold hearings on the bill in Mpumalanga.

ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE ACTING-CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT, MR LISA MANGCU.

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