Transport Head of Ministry Reponds to Level Crossing Accident Media Reports
Since the tragic death of Sorette Fourie at level crossing near Simonsvlei (Divisional Road 1103, km 3.41) on Monday morning, there have been numerous media reports apportioning blame. Soon after the accident, MEC for Transport and Public Works, Robin Carlisle, issued a media statement to the effect that Ms Fourie "may have ignored warning signs".
Numerous accusations have been levelled since against the department and the Provincial Government, which I will assess individually below. I examined the road inspection footage of the road and crossing, taken on 1 July 2010, and then inspected the road and crossing itself (see safelyhome.co.za/simonsvleilevelcrossing.htm) on foot and in a vehicle. I spoke to Mr Carlos Vilela, general manager of the hotel which the road serves, as he had been quoted numerous times in the media citing various reasons for the crash.
Ms Fourie's death is a horrendous tragedy, and it is with great reluctance that the MEC instructed me to investigate and respond to the various assertions being made in the media. In the final analysis, it is in the public interest that the facts be known.
Beyond the immediate round of recriminations, it must be noted the Divisional Road 1103, is on the department's medium term financial plan for upgrade, and will be upgraded to a surfaced road in due course. We cannot will a critical process away because of one tragedy.
1. The rising sun obscures the crossing (Carlos Vilela, Cape Argus 26/10/10, Die Son, 27/10/10).
Motorists are responsible for ensuring that the way is clear and are required to exercise additional caution at dawn and dusk. This counts for level crossings as much as for any intersection. The crash in question occurred at 8am. Sunrise that day was at 5.53am.
2. The train comes around a blind corner very quickly (Carlos Vilela, Cape Argus 26/10/10, Die Son, 27/10/10).
There are no blind corners on railway lines as trains cannot corner effectively. The sight lines stretch for about 500m in both directions.
3. The government would react differently had it been one of its officials killed at the level crossing (Carlos Vilela, Die Son, 27/10/10).
It would not have.
4. The crossing is in an obviously poor condition (Carlos Vilela, Die Son, 27/10/10, Bhadi Chabaan, Die Burger 28/10/10).
The crossing has concrete paving slabs to raise the road to the height of the train tracks, which are in good condition, and effectively allow an ordinary sedan car to pass over easily.
5. The crossing is not marked correctly. Warning signs are in poor condition. (Carlos Vilela, Die Son, 27/10/10, Bhadi Chabaan, Die Burger 28/10/10).
The crossing is marked on both sides as follows: a stop-warning sign at 240M. A level crossing sign and clearance warning at 100M. A clearance warning at 25M. A stop sign at the crossing. Dual track level crossing marker at the crossing. Overhead chevrons at the crossing. These are all large, undamaged, unobscured and appeared to be new and in good condition. Images are here: safelyhome.co.za/simonsvleilevelcrossing.htm. These were taken on 1 July 2010 and are stills from the inspection video. I examined the signs on 28/10/10 and conclude they are in good condition.
6. Vehicles must cross very slowly (Carlos Vilela, Die Son, 27/10/10).
I was able to cross comfortably and quickly in an ordinary sedan vehicle with low suspension and no 4X4. I did this in both directions several times.
7. There was no proper road safety in place (Carlos Vilela, Cape Times, 27/10/10).
The road safety measures in place comply with the legal standards for the crossing. I have personally inspected the crossing to ensure that the video footage from the last road inspection was accurate.
8. Warning signs are obscured by trees (Carlos Vilela, Die Burger 28/10/10).
On the approach from the R101, it is apparent that at certain times of day the level crossing sign would be in shade. It is not however obscured, and is clearly visible. Shade does not affect the stop-warning sign, the clearance warning sign, the stop sign or overhead chevrons.
Head of Ministry for Western Cape Transport and Public Works
Media Liaison Officer
Ministry of Transport and Public Works
Western Cape Provincial Government
Tel: 021 483 8954
Cell: 083 641 9691