Parliament, Saturday, 4 February 2023 – The residents of King Cetshwayo District Municipality have implored the Portfolio Committee on Transport to reduce the power and authority of the Minister of Transport in the appointment process of the Railway Safety Regulator Board.

The committee kick-started yesterday the KwaZulu-Natal leg of the three-day public hearings programme on the Railway Safety Bill in Ngwelezane Community Hall near Richards Bay. Residents from all the communities within the district attended the hearings and expressed their views on the Bill.

Section 11 of the Bill proposes the process for the appointment of the board . There was a view that the current proposal has a potential to make the board vulnerable to corruption and nepotism. To prevent this, participants called for an inclusive parliamentary process that will enable the participation of all political parties in the selection and appointment of the board.

Residents called for strong ties between community liaison officers of the railway operators and the regulator with the communities adjacent to railway lines to open up communication lines with the community, address safety concerns and roll-out safety workshops at schools and within the communities in general as per Section 7 (1) (g) of the Bill which requires the regulator to provide education and training, and conduct public awareness activities relating to safe railway and railway operations.

A concern was highlighted that currently, operators are deaf to the complaints of communities and that according to participants has negative implications on, among other things, safety in the railway environment. Furthermore, there was a call that there must be a representation of the community in the board to ensure that there is a voice of the community within the board.

The Bill was supported by residents of the district who emphasised their support on certain aspects of the Bill. Some emphasised the critical role of cooperation and collaboration as suggested by Section 7 (2) (b) of the Bill and others said they hoped that the Bill will address many of challenges that currently exist within the railway environment, challenges that include the lack of bridges to allow pedestrians to cross the railway line, overgrown weeds along the railway line, lack of security and unfenced railway line.

Although the hearings were about the Railway Safety Bill, there were participants who raised concerns about their interaction with Transnet and the entity’s lack of compassionate response to victims of railway accidents especially with the railway line to the Richards Bay Harbour. The committee thanked all participants and assured them that their inputs on the Bill will be considered during its deliberations on the Bill.

The committee also conducted an impromptu in-loco oversight visit to the Richards Bay Harbour responding to concerns raised by South Africans about the heavy traffic caused by trucks that export coal on the South African national roads. The committee remains of the view that the country should invest in rail infrastructure to alleviate the pressure on the roads and to improve the lifespan of the road infrastructure.

The committee also believes that the promotion of transportation of goods by rail, will certainly reduce the cost of transportation of goods and unlock the economic potential of the country. The committee will today hold the second hearings in Pietermaritzburg. It invites interested individuals and organisations to come forward to share their views with it.

Details of the visit (Day 2) 
Date: Saturday, 4 February 2023
Time: 10:00
Venue: Pietermaritzburg City Hall, Pietermaritzburg


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