“How it was authorized to enter a section of track that was already occupied will be investigated,” she said. Video footage after the crash, which took place during the busy morning commute as South Africans returned to work from summer holidays, showed injured passengers sitting on the platform as they received care from paramedics.
Chris Hunsinger, who speaks for the opposition Democratic Alliance on transport issues, said that train safety had become a “huge concern” and that the Railway Safety Regulator, a government body charged with oversight, was unable to function effectively because of an “ill-considered relationship” with the transport authorities.
“The regulator should be part of the Department of Transport,” Mr. Hunsinger said. “At present, they operate as a quasi-company and are financially dependent on the department and Prasa. If they close stations or remove trains from the system, they risk depriving themselves of income.”
Mr. Hunsinger added that the signaling system was being upgraded in Gauteng, the province where Tuesday’s crash occurred, with “major issues” integrating the old network and a new control room.
As rescuers began treating the injured passengers in Germiston, around 15 families arrived at the Kroonstad morgue to begin identifying relatives who died in the crash last week, where several carriages burst into flames.
Col. Thandi Mbambo from the provincial police department told the South African news network ENCA that the condition of most of the bodies meant that they could be identified only by DNA testing, a process that takes up to three weeks.
The morgue was closed over the weekend, leaving several families in the dark about the fate of their relatives.
“My older sister was on the train with her niece, who was 7,” said a man from Port Elizabeth who asked to be identified only as Marcus. “We still don’t know what happened to them.”
He said his mother had gone to the morgue on Tuesday to give a DNA sample, adding, “It’s been frustrating waiting for so long.”
Officials from the state train network pledged to investigate both crashes, while insisting that South Africans should not be concerned about traveling by rail. “One accident is too many,” said Ms. Mofokeng, “but we want to remind commuters that rail is still the safest mode of transport in the country.”
According to the safety regulator, 495 people died in train accidents in…