File Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
Metrorail drivers are resigning at an alarming rate for fear of being attacked by angry commuters, said United National Transport Union (Untu) spokesperson Sonja Carstens.

An increase in train hijackings and crimes where drivers were being targeted, had made the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) a ticking time bomb that could go off at any minute, she added.

“Furious commuters have attacked train drivers at gunpoint or knifepoint because of delays that made them late for work, which has resulted in drivers being traumatised to the extent that they resigning at an alarming rate,” Carstens said in Centurion on Tuesday.

“They fear for their lives because they never know what might happen next. According to the drivers, the dangerous route is the one between Pretoria and Joburg.”

Untu general secretary Steve Harris said the Railway Safety Regulator, the train safety watchdog, allowed Prasa to operate trains with manual authorisation, but on the condition the train did not increase its speed to more than 30km/h.

“Prasa is unable to replace all its broken signals and do away with manual authorisation due to the constant criminal activities and vandalism of the rail infrastructure.

“The Rapid Rail unit of the SAPS lacks the expertise to combat copper theft by international crime syndicates. These rings are targeting rail infrastructure because it is such a soft target,” said Harris.

Untu called on Prasa and the SAPS to ensure there was security on trains.

“We’re alarmed by what’s coming out and we want to get all the information to give a comprehensive response. From what I can tell it’s not a management issue but a crime issue,” said Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani.

Cape Argus