Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport has described Thursday’s train accident in the Free State in which at least 18 people died as “anguish beyond measure”. 

In a statement, the committee sent its condolences to the families whose relatives were involved in a train crash that took place near Kroonstad on Thursday morning.

Chairperson of the Committee Dikeledi Magadzi said the crash was unfortunate especially that it happened when the Department of Transport and its entities, and law enforcement agencies are sparing no effort in containing road accidents.

“The anguish is beyond measure. As a country we are struggling with high number of road crashes, and this one involving a train caught all by surprise. The Committee would like to plead vigilance especially among drivers of motor vehicles as we are approaching the end of the festive season,” Magadzi said.

A passenger train travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, collided with a truck at a level crossing near Kroonstad in the Free State province before it burst into flames. Eighteen people are reported dead and over 180 had been admitted to nearby hospitals.

“Transport is central to booming economic activity and vibrant domestic tourism sector. We want a safe public transport where traveling around economic centres is enjoyable,” Magadzi added.

She called on drivers to exercise extra caution on the roads over the weekend as many working class South Africans will be returning from December holidays.

The accident occurred at the Jeneva level crossing between Hennenman and Kroonstad. 

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) acting CEO Mthuthuzeli Swartz confirmed on Thursday that the death toll stood at 18 from the accident which occurred at around 9am on Thursday which he also referred to as one of the saddest incidents in the history of Metrorail.

South African Transport minister Joe Maswangayi, together with the MEC for Police, Roads, and Transport in the Free State, Sam Mashinini, visited the scene on Thursday.

According to a statement from Maswanganyi, preliminary investigations indicate that the derailment was “caused by the truck which untimely crossed the level crossing at around 09h00 this morning”.

It is alleged that the truck driver crossed the railway line without stopping, causing the crash.

– African News Agency (ANA)