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A taxi being towed away after a train crashed into it near False Bay station in Muizenberg. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – In commemoration of International Level Crossing Awareness Day (Ilcad), the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has called for more to be done to ensure safety at railway level crossings.

Ilcad’s global initiative to improve awareness of level crossing safety is observed on June 10 annually.

This year in commemoration of the event RSR has partnered with Traxtion, a private rail operator to encourage pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution when using level crossings.

This after the safety regulator recorded approximately 20 fatalities and 20 injuries at level crossings in its annual State of Railway Safety Report 2020/21. 

The North West, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape accounted for 53% of all level crossing occurrences during the past year.

Traxtion compliance manager Thando Makoyi said: “A level crossing is a place where a railway and a road, or two railway lines, cross at the same level. Crossings are marked by a variety of signs, including booms, traffic lights, and stop signs, depending on the risk profile of the level crossing.

“In South Africa, there are 7500 level crossings. While the death toll at these level crossings seems low, there should be no deaths or injuries sustained at level crossings. All 20 deaths were utterly preventable because motorists and pedestrians frequently overestimate their abilities when they are at level crossings.

“People don’t think about the speed of a train and how heavy it is. It takes time for a train to stop, even if it is going slowly as is required at level crossings. The tonnage of the train propels it forward, and it has a massive impact when it hits something.

“Traxtion, Africa’s largest private freight rail operator, is heavily involved with rail safety,” Makoyi said.

RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams said: “Trains have the right of way at level crossings, and we are seeing these incidents occur because motorists are not obeying the rules. The RSR report states that 85% of all fatalities at level crossings were a result of motorists not obeying the warning signs.

“A year without incidents does not necessarily indicate a safety improvement. We cannot afford to be complacent about railway accidents. We call on all rail operators to join us in the awareness campaign and to comply with the safety regulations to ensure safe passage for the public and railway operators at level crossings,” she said.