Injured train driver drove to ‘safe station’ to get help

Injured train driver drove to ‘safe station’ to get help
Injured train driver drove to 'safe station' to get help

United National Transport Union – 29 January 2017 – An injured train driver of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) drove with pieces of glass in his eyes to safety after an attacker scattered the front window of his train with a brick when he was driving into Du Toit-railway station near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.

Willem Spence (52), a member of the United National Transport Union (UNTU) who has been driving trains for the past 27 years, was driving slowly and had just past a squatter camp near next to the station at about 11:45 near the station when he saw the attacker in front of him on the railway line.

The brick scattered his window. Pieces of glass went into his eyes and he had several cuts on his face and over his arms. Spence decided to continue with his injuries to the Stellenbosch railway station when he could not see any police officials or security guards at the Du Toit railway station to assist him. His train was filled with commuters.

At the Stellenbosch railways station police officials and security guards helped the injured train driver. He was taken to hospital where the pieces of glass were removed from his eyes. Spence is on sick leave for a week before the doctor will check his eyes again.

“It has become life threatening do drive our trains. We are under siege from criminals who knows that we are soft targets. As train drivers, we can no longer focus on normal train safety and the safety of the passengers we carry as we constantly must be on the lookout for criminals,” Spence told Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU.

Spence used to work as a train driver on the notorious Central Line between Cape Town and Khayelitsha, but asked PRASA’s human resource department to arrange for a transfer to a “safe” route after he was attacked several times on the Central Line.

Harris says attacks on train crews are no longer limited to specific routes. Over the past three months UNTU reported several incidents on various routes in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“UNTU will consult with our legal team tomorrow to approached the courts and to apply for an urgent interdict to force PRASA and the SAPS to protect train crews and commuters on trains. The Union has repeatedly warned that this has become a war on our railway lines, but it looks as though PRASA, the Minister of Transport who is responsible for the state-owned enterprise (SOE), and the South African Government who is responsible for the Minister, first want to see more innocent tax payers die before the will do something about this.

“The situation has got so bad that the only solution will be to bring in the South African Defence Force to protect our railway lines,” says Harris.

UNTU can proof that PRASA put out notices in December 2015 at railway station in which its “strongly condemns the growing incidents of assaults directed towards staff including Customer Services, Train Crew and Security Personnel”. Commuters are threated that if this “unbecoming behaviour continues” the train services will be suspended. This was not done, says Harris.

On 12 November last year UNTU and its federation, FEDUSA, briefed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on the dire situation at PRASA and pleaded with him to intervene to protect this crucial national asset who bring millions of workers to and from work daily. Ramaphosa has not responded.

Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Media and Liaison Officer.

South Africa Today – South Africa News

SOURCEBoere Krisis Aksie (B.K.A.)