Railway Safety Bill: public hearings day 2

This premium content has been made freely available


24 August 2022
Chairperson: Mr M Zwane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee received submissions on the Railway Safety Bill from the Lowveld Escarpment Fire Protection Agency and Bombela Operating Company. A scheduled presentation by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works was not received.

Lowveld Escarpment Fire Protection Agency asked for important provisions in the National Veld and Forest Fire Act to be incorporated into the new Bill. In particular, the requirement the state must join any fire protection association in an area where it owned land should be observed.

The Committee was wary of inserting provisions in the new Bill already in another Act. They asked for clarity on the state’s participation in fire protection associations was envisaged in practice.

Bombela Operating Company posed many operational questions to the Committee. It also suggested that safety permits for operators in the rail sector should be valid for a minimum of five years.

The Committee was not satisfied with the submission of the Bombela Operating Company and asked it to rework its submission and re-submit within a week. Members expressed some doubt about such a long validity period for safety permits.

Meeting report

Submission by Lowveld Escarpment Fire Protection Agency (LEFPA)
Mr Andre Scheepers, Manager, LEFPA, drew attention to section 4(8) of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998, according to which the owner of state land must join any fire protection association in the area in which the land lies. He observed that in Mpumalanga, railway authorities were not participating in the fire protection associations (FPAs). Section 12(1) similarly required landowners to maintain firebreaks on the boundaries of their land. Rail reserves often did not have properly maintained firebreaks. LEFPA wanted the provisions of these sections to be referred to or incorporated into the Railway Safety Bill. LEFPA also wanted the Bill to include provisions on fuel load management within rail reserves.

Mr C Hunsinger (DA) observed that since the provisions were already in the National Veld and Forest Act, it would create duplication if they were included in Bill under consideration. Did Mr Scheepers perhaps have any particular formalisation that could be added to the Railway Safety Bill to strengthen the provisions already in the National Veld and Forest Fire Act?

Mr Scheepers replied that the relevant sections of the National Veld and Forest Act the Bill should be mentioned in the Bill.

Mr T Mabhena (DA) asked Mr Scheepers to explain how he envisaged the membership and active participation of the state in FPAs. Did he envisage a consultative process? What exactly should be incorporated into the Bill?  

Mr Scheepers explained that presently, state representatives only got in touch with FPAs when a fire broke out. However, LEFPA, for example, held monthly meetings, and it would greatly improve communication if the state was represented at these meetings.

Submission by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works
This submission was not presented. The Committee undertook to consider the written submission.

Submission by Bombela Operating Company (BOC)
Mr Thapelo Mndaweni, Environmental Health Manager, BOC, said that BOC’s submission would cover safety permits, public participation, training for safety critical grades, and licensing for safety critical grades.

Safety permits
BOC was concerned that removing combined or grouped categories of railway operations requiring safety permits would create an administrative and financial burden for BOC. It suggested that the Committee consider including combined or grouped categories of railway operations in the Bill.

Public participation
BOC was concerned that making the safety permit renewal process subject to public participation would create an administrative and financial burden for BOC. It suggested that only new applications should require public participation and that the validity period for safety permits be increased to at least five years.

Training for safety critical grades
BOC requested clarity about the cost and availability of the new training required for safety critical grades.

Licensing of safety critical grades
BOC requested clarity on the administration of the new requirements for licensing of safety critical grades by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR).

Mr Hunsinger observed that BOC was posing a lot of questions. He pointed out that the Committee was the representative of the public, and as such, it was responsible for considering the Bill but was not the body proposing it. The input given by industry experts like BOC should guide the Committee in a particular direction. He invited BOC to rework their submission so that it made proposals to improve the Bill under consideration. He noted the suggestion that only new safety permit applications should be subject to public participation but asked if public participation was not even more important for renewal applications than new applications, given that the public would not have any experiences on which to base their participation in new applications.

Mr K Sithole (IFP) said the BOC did not seem to know the functions of the Portfolio Committee. He agreed with Mr Hunsinger that BOC should have made more suggestions instead of asking questions.

Mr Mndaweni replied that he would welcome the opportunity to rework BOC’s submission.
The Chairperson asked that the reworked submission be sent within a week.

Mr Mabhena noted that the new Bill was directed at the rail sector as a whole, not just BOC. The Committee could not answer questions on operational matters, and he agreed that BOC should have made proposals or suggestions on the Bill. He denied that the public participation process would place an administrative burden on BOC. The custodian of the public participation process would be the RSR. BOC would not bear any administrative or financial burdens. It would however be BOC’s responsibility to ensure that its staff received any necessary training. He emphasised that bills could not be tailored to suit the needs of one specific company or organisation. It had to address the needs of the sector as a whole, taking all operators into consideration. He appreciated the suggestion that safety permits should be valid for five years but did not think it was practical in the context of transporting public goods and citizens. It was a stretch to suggest that the RSR should have to wait five years to address safety compliance issues.

Ms M Ramadwa (ANC) also agreed that BOC should rework its submission. She also asked why the safety permit validity period should be increased to five years.

Mr Mndaweni replied that increasing the validity period of the safety permit would not mean that there would not be more frequent reviews. There would need to be regular audits and inspections by the RSR to verify compliance. It was also not the intention of BOC to personalise the new Bill. He recognised that the Bill had to cater for the whole rail sector. He hoped that there would be reasonable access to training institutions for all rail operators.

Mr Mabhena asked for clarification of the difference between BOC and Bombela Concession Company (BCC) and their relationships with the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA). It didn’t seem like these related organisations were communicating with each other on their submissions to the Committee.

Mr Mndaweni explained that GMA was a subsidiary of the Gauteng Department of Transport, whereas BCC was an organisation contracted to GMA for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Gautrain. BOC meanwhile was an organisation contracted to BCC to operate and maintain the Gautrain on behalf of BOC.

Committee business
Ms Valerie Carelse, Secretary, Portfolio Committee on Transport, said that the programme for the term had not yet been made available, but it seemed likely that provincial hearings on the Bill would have to take place on weekends. 

The Chairperson noted this. He recalled that the Committee had decided to focus on the Bills that it felt it could finalise before the end of the term.

Mr Hunsinger said that it would be very useful for the Committee to know from the Department of Transport which of the Bills currently in the pipeline were of the highest priority, so that the Committee could prioritise these. He recalled that he had asked for this information repeatedly. He also noted that the Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims (APRAV) had asked to make a submission on the Road Accident Fund Act. APRAV claimed that substantial savings could be made through legislative amendments. Had the Committee formally received such a request?

Ms Carelse confirmed that the request had been received.

Mr P Mey (FF+) said it would be best to wait until the programme was released before discussing the way forward for the Committee.

Mr Mabhena agreed that the Committee should wait for the programme to be released before finalising its schedule. He suggested a clustered schedule in which provincial hearings for more than one Bill could be held simultaneously to save travel costs and time.

Mr Sithole said that the Committee should wait for the programme to be released before considering which Bills to focus on.

Ms Ramadwa agreed that there should be a clustered schedule and that the Committee should wait for the programme to be made available. She also noted that the Committee needed to balance oversight, making laws and public participation.

The meeting was adjourned.


Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: