“I can confirm that there is a train collision,” Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa) spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng said.
African News Agency reported that there were conflicting reports about the number of deaths, with acting provincial police commissioner of Gauteng Major General Max Masha stating four people had died, while Mofokeng said the death toll still stood at three.
The chaos and negligence witnessed once again this week has become a standard feature of African rail transport.
In 2015, 92 people were injured and one person died after a business express train hit another train at Denver station, in the southeast of Johannesburg.
In 2017 in Elandsfontein, a passenger train travelling between Johannesburg and Pretoria was hit by another train pulling out of a siding onto the same track, leaving one passenger dead and more than 100 injured.
In a crash in January last year in Kroonstad, a town in the Free State, 21 people were killed and 200 injured when a truck tried to beat a train at a rail crossing.
Also last year, on September 4, 100 people were injured in a head-on collision between two trains at the Eloff extension in Selby, Johannesburg.
Emergency service Netcare first reported that more than 200 were injured, but News24 later said over 300 people have been hospitalised. The latest reports from TimesLive put the number of injured at 620 people, however.
Mofokeng told African News Agency that more than 300 commuters were injured. Later she said that there were two or three people still trapped inside the trains.
“Unfortunately one [train] was stationary on the platform when the other one hit it at the back,” said Mofokeng.
The latest crash ironically comes after a high court order confirmed an agreement with the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) that Prasa would submit an improved safety plan.
Prasa had actually taken the RSR to court following after the regulator refused to issue a safety permit in the wake of train crash in Kempton Park in October last year.
In that incident, a passenger train also slammed into a stationary train at the station, injuring more than 300 people, three of them seriously.
Mofokeng told eNCA Prasa took “full responsibility for any incident that happens within our environment, especially here in Gauteng, because we are the operators. So one incident, it doesn’t matter where or how or what the causes are, we are operating and taking full responsibility.”
But in the wake of the many disasters, it appears that Prasa’s statements on “taking responsibility” may be yet another empty promise.