Level-Crossing Camera Enforcement Switched On at Buttskop
The second phase of the CCTV level-crossing camera enforcement system, first implemented at the White Road level crossing, has now been extended to the Buttskop railway crossing, which was the scene of a horrific mini-bus taxi crash in 2010 that saw 10 children tragically losing their lives, and others seriously injured.
“The tragic events of 25 of August 2010 should never be forgotten, and must continue to serve as a reminder of the horror that reckless and irresponsible driving can inflict on those most vulnerable, namely passengers and pedestrians,” said Minister Carlisle.
“The initial CCTV level-crossing camera enforcement project was the first of its kind in South Africa, targeted specifically at prosecuting level crossing offences. With this system, offenders will face stiff fines, starting at R500 for failure to stop before crossing the level-crossing. They may also face arrest and charges of reckless and negligent driving, for example, if the booms are ignored. We have no doubt that the effects that this CCTV enforcement has had on White Road will also be felt at Buttskop, with drivers changing their behaviour and adhering to the rules of the road,” added Carlisle.
Since the initial implementation at White Road in June 2012 up until December 2012, a total of 1379 fines were issued for failure to stop at the level-crossing. This year, from January till October 2013, a total of 2831 fines were issued.
Metrorail Western Cape regional manager, Mthuthuzeli Swartz, said the 80 near-misses at the Buttskop level-crossing in ten months is maniacal: “Any one of those could have been fatal. We must force compliance through enforcement”.
Swartz said the region’s approach to safety at level-crossings will receive a welcome boost by the installation of a second camera: “Enforcement forms an integral part of regulating vehicle driver behaviour.”
“Some of the reckless and irresponsible acts seen at these level-crossings not only endanger lives, but also cause very costly damage to property; both being a serious disregard of the law that will inevitably adversely affect other road users for whom safety is a priority. Through these cameras, we will be one step closer to ensuring that those errant motorists suffer the consequences of their actions,” added Carlisle.
“This year alone it had cost the rail utility more than R400 000 to repair booms driven off by errant motorists. It is unacceptable that good money is wasted on vandalism of this nature – this camera will ensure that guilty parties are fined and prosecuted with the full might of the law,” added Swartz.
The CCTV camera footage will also be used as proof of guilt in civil claims (that Metrorail may institute against transgressing vehicle owners) to recover damages and costs of repairs.
Two-hundred-and-thirty-two incidents of level-crossing damage had been reported to date across the region, which can be ascribed to the Western Cape having the highest number of level-crossings.
“Metrorail maintains 34 level-crossings, many of which provide access to private farms,” said Swartz. Swartz said Metrorail conducts scores of safety awareness campaigns annually, at least six are devoted exclusively to busy level-crossings: “Our employees offer printed safety material and educate motorists, pedestrians and cyclists using level-crossings”.
“All level-crossings in the region are evaluated regularly and have been assessed and found to fully comply with legal and statutory requirements. Some even exceed legally required safety measures. All Metrorail level-crossings are checked and tested meticulously and damaged booms repaired within hours,” added Swartz.
Warning devices such as flash lights and booms are tested weekly and operational observations done daily. In addition, road and rail-crossing signage and road surface fixtures are inspected for vandalism and repairs every 90 days. Test results are documented in compliance to a stringent safety management system. Accident investigations happen under the auspices of the Rail Safety Regulator. Metrorail also serves on the regional cross-functional level-crossing task team.
Way Forward with Level-Crossings
The Western Cape Government, and our partners, continues to look at ways in which to make level-crossings safer, as well as move closer to the ideal where less and less vehicles have to make use of level-crossings as a means of safe passage over railway tracks.
“One of our main projects to eliminate level-crossings has been the joint venture project, co-funded by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), at Vlaeberg level-crossing. A contractor has been appointed to carry out the work of building a road over rail bridge at Vlaeberg,” said Carlisle.
“The next step is indeed to consolidate or eliminate level-crossings altogether. We have requested the City to honour their commitment to close Kenilworth level-crossing after the completion of Stanhope Bridge,” said Swartz. He added that Metrorail’s principal, PRASA, planned to develop suitable proposals to eliminate Koelenhof/Elsenberg, Buttskop and Military Road level crossings.
These projects are in conceptual planning phase to develop road-over-rail bridges.
“Although PRASA has initiated the projects, are doing the planning and will avail funding, full implementation will require co-funding from municipal and provincial government. Construction timing will depend on the eventual costing and available budget. It is expected that construction of at least one will start in the financial year 2015/16 and the estimated construction period is 20 months,” added Swartz.
“I am assured by our commitment and continued partnership, as Government and PRASA Metrorail, that we will continue to fully explore all the ways in which we can work together to make rail safety better,” added Carlisle.
Level Crossing Facts and Safety Tips
- Safety at level-crossings is predominantly governed by the principles contained in South African Road Signs Manual - road signage and lights at level-crossings are the primary indicators; barriers/booms are affixed as an additional barriers
- Train drivers are obligated to sound sirens on approach to level-rossings
- Trains operate with their head lights on as additional safety measures
- Trains legally have right of way at road/rail level crossing intersections
- Trains operate on fixed infrastructure and cannot take evasive action during emergencies
- A full train will take up to 500 meters to stop under emergency conditions
- Where level crossings are protected by lights and barriers, the lights will start flashing 30 seconds before an approaching train enters the level crossing intersection
- Barriers drop ten seconds before the train enters the intersection and remain closed until the last carriage safely clears the intersection - lights continue to flash until the barrier lifts