COSATU presented its submission on the Railway Safety Bill to Parliament

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) presented its submission on the Railway Safety Bill to the Parliament’s Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure today.  This is a long overdue and important Bill that seeks to ensure railway workers, commuters and freight can travel and arrive at their destinations safely. 

COSATU supports the progressive objectives and provisions of the Bill that seek to overhaul our often-weak health and safety provisions governing our passenger and freight railway network.  Key clauses include empowering the Railway Safety Regulator and its inspectors to inspect, seize documents and other relevant evidence, and to suspend railway operations where needed to protect lives and cargo.

The Federation welcomes provisions to provide for worker representation on the Railway Safety Regulator’s Board.  It is workers who run our railway network.  Their inclusion on the Board will enable them to raise serious concerns and challenges immediately, allow them to table practical interventions and solutions, and help ensure the collective buy in of workers of the Regulator’s railway safety plans.

Whilst welcoming the objectives of this critical Bill, COSATU believes certain clauses need to be strengthened by Parliament, including provisions:

Limiting the Railway Safety Regulator’s inspections to between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.  This defies logic when railway operations operate beyond office hours.  Limiting the powers to inspect whenever needed will weaken the ability of inspectors to enforce railway safety standards and enable the culprits to hide incriminating evidence.
The silence of the Bill on the respective responsibilities for ensuring the safety and security or railway crossings, sidings and lines.  The continuous shifting of responsibility for this between Metro Rail and Transnet, Provincial and Local Government has resulted in the tragic deaths of children, pedestrians and commuters crossing unguarded crossings, sidings and lines.
The silence of the Bill on measures to respond to the devastating stripping of thousands of kilometres of cables that is crippling Transnet and Metro Rail.  This requires urgent and decisive action by government, including the welcome current banning of scrap copper and steal exports, the regulation of scrap metal dealers and the shutting down of dealers fuelling cable theft, the immediate deployment of the South African National Defence Force to secure the railway network, the revival of the South African Police Service Railway Unit and the development of alternatives to copper cables.
Whilst COSATU welcomes the progressive objectives of the Bill, its omissions need to be addressed if we are to ensure the safety of railway workers, commuters and freight.  We cannot afford a business as usual approach when the lives and jobs of workers hang in the balance.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator 
Cell: 082 785 0687