Union raises rail safety concerns following deadly Free State train crash

Prasa's Mthuthuzeli Swarts says the line will be closed while repairs continue.

Train accident in the Free State on 4 January, 2018. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - The United National Transport Union has raised serious concerns around rail safety in the wake of the deadly Free State train crash.

Eighteen people have died while another 254 have been injured after a Shosholoza Meyl locomotive travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg collided with a truck attempting to cross the rails on Thursday.

Hundreds of passengers were also treated for injuries.

The union has sent condolences to the families of those who died.

General secretary Steve Harris says: “I hope and trust that somewhere along the line going forward, the RSR road safety regulator will bring in harsher penalties for these sort of ignorant drivers who ignore road crossings because it’s unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has warned commuters that it may take up to 36 hours to clear the scene of the crash.

Prasa's Mthuthuzeli Swarts says the line will be closed while repairs continue.

“We expect then that the line will continue to be closed and the estimated time to retrieve and to clear and repair the lines, we estimate that it will take 36 hours.”

Swartz said the final death toll is yet to be confirmed.

"When the wreckage is lifted from the scene, we could discover more bodies."

Earlier one of the commuters, Riaan Terreblanche, said they were not reassured that they would be okay.

“They didn’t give us any reassurance that we’re going to be okay. We were left on the side of the road without any information, some people are dehydrated.”