Thursday, April 22, 2021

Botswana Railways grappling with multiple accidents

Botswana Railways (BR) Chief Executive Officer CEO Dominic Ntwaagae has said that company best practice stipulates non-public disclosure of train accident investigations reports regardless of the damage and restoration costs.

Ntwaagae told The Telegraph this week that the reason for non-disclosure stems from the possibility of premature interference of the investigations.

According to Ntwaagae, investigations are not excluded from public consumption but comprise strictly an internal and administrative matter assisting the organisation to improve on operational shortfalls. For instance, since the beginning of 2014, BR recorded three derailments of concern along the Gaborone/Francistown main line and further; near Shashe railway terminal, Lobatse and recently in Otse where eight wagons derailed. The Otse derailment is still embargoed because investigations are still at the initial stages. Investigations have attributed human error as the leading cause followed by industrial action by disgruntled personnel.

“Despite unfounded untruths to the contrary, there is no corroborating evidence suggesting BR has lost millions of pula in terms of track line and wagon repairs, milking the organisation dry. When train crews undergo the trauma of horrific rail traffic accidents, they undergo counseling before getting official leave to overcome the ordeal.”

Commenting on the causes of train accidents, Ntwaagae explained that derailments can be due to rail track shift or improper wheel alignment. The major concern, however, are the increasing number of motor/train collisions at level crossing leading to fatalities, especially where drivers ignore warning signals at synchronized (anosmatic) boom gates. “This is very worrisome and we are on country-wide campaign to sensitise the drivers on how they can avoid such accidents.”

High costs, amounting to millions of Pula hinders BR from installing boom gates at all level crossings to avoid the carnage.

BR has requested the Government to build flyover bridges as a precautionary measure. In response, plans to erect a flyover across the A1 road to fuel storage in Tshele hills near Rasesa, have reached an advanced stage, he said.

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