The 20 level crossing fatalities recorded by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) in its 2020/21 safety report were entirely avoidable as motorists and pedestrians often overestimate their level crossing skills.
Thando Makoyi, compliance manager at Traxtion – Africa’s largest private rail freight operator – made the remark on Wednesday ahead of International Level Crossing Awareness Day (Ilcad).
Ilcad is a global initiative, held on June 10 annually, to raise awareness of railroad crossing safety, and about 50 countries participate in the annual campaign.
A railroad crossing is a place where a railroad and a road or two railroad lines cross at the same level.
“People don’t think about the speed of a train and how heavy it is. It takes time for a train to stop, even if it is moving slowly, as is required at level crossings. The train’s tonnage propels it forward, and it has a massive impact when it hits something,” Makoyi said.
In SA, Traxtion is teaming up with the RSR to make the awareness campaign accessible to all stakeholders. especially motorists and pedestrians.
There are about 7,500 level crossings in SA. Traxtion said that although the death toll at these level crossings appears to be low, there should be no deaths or injuries at level crossings.
< p>Makoyi says Traxtion makes sure the infrastructure in the areas where it always operational and has urged the rest of the rail industry to do the same. Makoyi says that every single incident at a level crossing in Traxtion’s operating areas involved a motorist ignoring warning signs or simply not paying attention.
Though so far there have been no deaths or serious injuries, he said , these incidents damaged vehicles and led to delays of trains.
RSR spokeswoman Madelein Williams said trains have the right of way at level crossings. There are plenty of level crossing warning signs, including stop signs, booms, flashing lights or traffic lights.
Williams said the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape accounted for 53% of all level crossings in SA last year.
“We call on all rail operators to join the awareness campaign and comply with applicable safety regulations to ensure safe passage for the public and rail operators at level crossings,” Williams said.
One of the Activities planned for the awareness day is a level crossing visit in Orkney in the North West. The province recorded the highest number of railway crossings in the country last year (20%).
RSR and Traxtion will also visit the Vaal Reefs Technical School in Klerksdorp on Thursday to discuss railway career opportunities.
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