Train hijackings happen ‘weekly’ says union

United National Transport Union media relations officer, Sonja Carstens. Photo: Liam Ngobeni

A transport union claimed train hijackings and robberies in Gauteng happen “weekly” and that Prasa was keeping quiet about this trend.

The united national transport union (Untu) said they were concerned about this recent increase in train hijackings, as well as the safety of train crews and commuters.

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Prasa is “sitting on a ticking time bomb”, according to Unto general secretary Steve Harris.

Harris said there had been a clear increase in train hijacking in Gauteng, with union members giving feedback that these hijackings and robberies occur on a weekly basis.

This increase was worrying to the union as most of their members were fearing for their lives, agreed Untu media relations officer Sonja Carstens at a briefing in Centurion today.

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As a result, there was an increase in resignations from fearful train crew and employees.

A train hijacking is when commuters force a train driver to take a route unknown to him or her.

According to Carstens, the Pretoria-to-Johannesburg route was the most dangerous. It was, however, not the only affected route.

“In such an event, train drivers do not know where there are any turns or a steep curves on the route,” she said. “They can easily derail the train, which could have fatal results.

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“The situation is deteriorating daily to such an extent that it is only a question of time before we see yet another serious train accident.”

Harris said the situation has worsened after a train safety watchdog allowed Prasa to manually operate trains on the condition that the train does not increase its speed to more than 30 km per hour to ensure safety. This often causes delays of more than two hours.

“The constant delays make commuters furious, as they are constantly late for work. This is when they attack train crews and even torch train coaches.”

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Untu does not believe that the current situation must be allowed to continue.

Untu also said the police’s rapid rail unit was ineffective and lacked the expertise to combat hijackings.

Do you have more information about the story? Please send us an email to [email protected] or phone us on 083 625 4114.

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Liam Ngobeni

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