Railway line patrolmen should be re-introduced in the day to day activities of Botswana Railways to improve safety standards, residents of Palapye have proposed.
They pleaded with authorities during interviews at the kgotla on Thursday, conducted by a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications to investigate circumstances leading to derailment of a Botswana Railways passenger train 0501/BD549. The kgotla meetings are a platform for ordinary Motswana to voice their concerns and offer suggestions on how Botswana Railways can improve their services.
Kgosi Michael Maforoga applauded the commission of enquiry for consulting ordinary Batswana. His gripe with Botswana Railways is the safety risk posed by the unkept railway line. “Our railway line is neglected and poorly looked after. This is unlike in the past where there were workers assigned to debush and destump along the line. There were also people monitoring the wire fence bordering the line to ensure that it was intact.” He disclosed that Palapye residents have been complaining about level crossings which damage their vehicle tyres. Maforaga pointed out that as a result of that, there is always congestion at the railway crossing resulting from slow speeds trying to manoeuvre the crossing. This pose a risk to drivers as some find themselves in the train’s path bottled up at the crossings.
Malebogo Orapeleng of Madiba ward shared the same sentiments as Kgosi Maforaga. She revealed that when growing up she used to see yellow attired workers patrolling the railway line on a regular basis. She added that however as the years passed she became aware of the disappearance of such vital people. “What happened to these people?”she asked. She called for the reinstatement of the workers as they ensured that the railway line surroundings were always clean.
Another resident, Goitsemodimo Sobeya of Serorome ward advice was for the constant use of the small motor train to monitor the railway line during the rainy season. She said it was of paramount importance that it should always precede the train on the track to check out vulnerable areas on the railway track. This she said will be to check if conditions ahead could allow the train to pass safely. Sobeya suggested for the building of a flyover bridge at Palapye junction area along A1 road crossing Morupule railway line. She pointed that was a compromising spot for train accidents involving cars and trucks as it is a busy area. She lambasted those responsible for stealing Botswana Railways fences which keep livestock from roaming into the railway tracks.
From Makoro to Palapye there is clear evidence that the railway line is littered and has become a dumping site. This observation was made by Lillian Keaitse of Boseja ward who castigated Botswana Railways for its bush clearing activities. She mentioned that after they clear their lines, the railway workers do not dispose of the remnants thus making area fertile for illegal dumping
A veteran and former Security Officer in the passenger train Boston Ketlogetswe of Madiba ward explained the intricacies of railtrack construction. He called for constant checking of railway lines for faults and proper alignment. He suggested that veterans should be consulted to offer practical advice on what they did in the past to ensure that accidents do not occur. Ketlogetswe revealed that after his retrenchment from the organisation he boarded the passenger train and was surprised to see many irregularities. He called on Botswana Railways to introspect and not rely on the nation to point out its flaws. Furthermore, he encouraged the Carriage and Wagon department to inspect their wagons before every trip. “BR can be the pride of the nation if proper work regulations are strictly adhered to.”
Gabalese Ramotshabi, also a former employee with thirty years experience in the railway industry observed that Bonwapitse river railway bridge is lowly placed. He implored the current government administration to rectify the situation by raising the raising the railway level from Dibete to Mahalapye.
Former Botswana Railways locomotive driver, Benson Bojong called on the logistics giant to move with the times and embrace changing technology. He urged the management to seek advice from employees. He said their input will help management to formulate policies that will help Botswana Railways to achieve their desired objectives. Bojong insisted that the derailed train accident should not have happened as it was not the first time to have wash-aways in Botswana. He said their are rules and procedures that should be followed during rains. He advised that a train should not leave a station until there is certainty that the route is clear and safe. He said some of the situations occur because there is tendency to take short cut measures instead of following train working regulations. “And if there are any reports of bad weather then under no circumstance should the train be dispatched.”
At the end of the session, the Commision Board Chairperson, Olefile Moakofi was happy and praised Batswana for their contributions at the kgotla meetings. He said Batswana appreciated the work that the commission was doing, and deliberated without fear.