Prasa train doors left open while in motion

Passenger rail agency, Prasa, must make sure that the doors on their  commuter trains remain closed while the train is in motion.

In terms of a recent Constitutional Court Judgment, failure to do this will mean that Prasa will have to cough up for damages.

To date, Prasa seems to have done little to comply with their own basic safety procedures.

Irvine Mashongwa was only 22-years-old when he lost his leg after falling out of a moving train.

It happened on New Year's Day in 2011 - he was accosted by three men, who robbed him and then threw him out through the open doors. His left leg was so badly damaged in the fall that it had to be amputated above the knee. He is still haunted by the events of that day.

"I do dream about it. Sometimes your my leg is in pain."

The train driver is largely oblivious to what is happening on the coaches. Rail commuter, Elizabeth says passengers break the doors by keeping them open.

"When the driver press the button for closing the doors some people press door that it mustn't close," says Elizabeth.

Nicole Thomas used to catch a train home from school every day. One day the train moved off from the platform even though her school bag was caught on the outside.

"It was a scary moment because I didn't know what was happening, I was stuck and this train was moving and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn't do anything and obviously I was crying like a maniac and these doors just closed on my bag I felt like I was restrained by this train and nobody you that's not a nice feeling to have," says Thomas.

Fellow commuters freed the traumatised little girl by forcing the doors open.

This past weekend, my husband and I caught a commuter train. There were no conductors or any other official to answer queries. On one train, the coach doors didn't open automatically and had to be forced.

Another surprising think I noticed when I jumped onto the train coming back was the fact that all the train doors were opened almost as if it was normal for that to happen people didn't look surprised or taken aback.

Clinging to a pole with one hand, I shot a video from the open door of the speeding train. Irvine's harrowing tale kept playing in the back of my mind.

Let's just say I was grateful to get off at the next station. So it's a very harrowing experience for me and I cannot imagine being force to do this every day.


The SABC is in possession of video footage and photographs showing how trains are allowed to run contrary to Prasa's own operating instructions. An obvious solution seems to be deploying security personnel to ensure that train doors remain closed and operational.

This is an excerpt from the August hearing, with Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

"Its remarkable part of this case is we told there is no security system after the disbanding of the railway police. Hundreds of thousands of working people and other people get into trains but there's no security for them!"

Prasa says it conducts regular stop and search operations to check for dangerous weapons. But the men who robbed Irvine were not armed and so these operations seem ineffective.

The organisation says it cannot afford to provide a security guard for every train and deploys them only on high risk routes.

But without a proper explanation of their security strategy the Constitutional Court was unable to establish negligence on that score.

When it comes to the operationally of the doors, Prasa was held to account. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng penned the unanimous judgment.

"This is an essential safety procedure. It was thus negligent of Prasa not to observe that basic safety critical practice and therefore reasonable to impose liability for damages on it. In all likelihood Mr Mashongwa would not have been thrown out of the train had the strict safety regime of closing coach doors while the train was in motion been observed."

In a previous case, the court found that Prasa owes a duty of care to its rail commuters.

"But here we go a step further to pronounce that the duty concerned together with constitutional values have mutated to a private law duty to prevent harm to commuters," says Mogoeng.

Mashongwa must still return to the High Court for a determination on how much he can sue Prasa for.

The Judgment also paves the way for further law suits, offering some compensation to victims. But Irvine doesn't see it that way.

"Forever I will be that guy the victim and I don't think i would like to be used as a reference forever," says Mashongwa.

Besides issuing a terse email statement, Prasa has been unavailable for comment. They still maintain that on the day in question the train doors were closed.

That the judgment does not introduce new law and that they will continue to ensure commuter safety on their trains.

For more on this story, follow at Candice underscore Klein (@Candice_Klein). The conversation will continue online under the hashtag trainDoors or you can visit the SABC news website (

Compiled by SABC Senior Constitutional Court Reporter for Radio: Candice Nolan