Parliament, Sunday, 5 February 2023 – The residents of uMgungundlovu District Municipality have suggested that Railway Safety Inspectors must be appointed on contractual basis to prevent the temptation of involvement in corrupt tendencies that include acceptance of bribes from railway operators. This view was expressed during the second of three public hearings on the Bill that were held yesterday by the Portfolio Committee on Transport at the Pietermaritzburg Town Hall in Umgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

Participants one after another highlighted a concern that due to the mandate of the railway inspectors which is enshrined in Chapter 6 of the Railway Safety Bill, an enormous pressure may, inadvertently, arise on inspectors and force them to ignore the objectives of the Bill and diminish safety standards.

Participants called for clear monitoring and evaluation processes to keep the inspectors under close supervision. They said that theft and vandalism of infrastructure are as a result of the compromised railway safety. Based on that, there was a call for the Railway Safety Bill to make clear provision to categorise theft and vandalism of infrastructure as treasonous acts of crime to stop their continuation.

Participants told the committee that the absence of a clause in the Bill that addresses the challenge of theft and vandalism will render the implementation of the Bill mythical and a waste of time exercise.

The Bill received an overwhelming support from participants who argued that it contains clear policy guideline and will strengthen the security of the system. There was a call that its processing must be fast-tracked to ensure its speedy implementation so that the communities can enjoy its envisaged fruits. The low cost to travel by trains was also raised as a key pillar in supporting the Bill, with participants highlighting that other modes of transport are unaffordable to the majority of South Africans.

Furthermore, participants underscored that the cost of upgrading and maintaining roads infrastructure will be reduced as people and goods will be moved from road to rail transport as a direct result of safe railway environment. Also, a view was highlighted that the movement of people and goods from road to rail will minimise the rate of fatalities on national roads and lessen the pressure on the Road Accident Fund.

Another call was made by participants for the Bill to set clear timelines concerning the issuance of the Railway Safety Permits as proposed by Chapter 3 of the Bill, and that the appeals process as set out in Chapter 8 must have timelines to avoid lengthy and unwarranted delays by the regulator.

The silence of the Bill on the participation and contribution of traditional leaders in its implementation was highlighted by participants as a concern. Participants felt that the role of traditional leadership will enhance clause 38 of the Bill which highlights the need for consultative forums to enhance railway safety.

Today the committee will hold the last public hearings in Durban. It invites interested individuals and organisations to come forward to share their views with it.

Details of the visit (Day 2) 
Date: Sunday, 5 February 2023
Time: 10:00
Venue: Umkhumbaan Community Hall, Durban Central


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