Posted on November 17, 2016
Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP), and Mr Nkululeko Poya, Chief Executive Officer of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the sponsorship of the RSR Chair in Railway Safety on Monday, 14 November 2016.
Prof Sunil Maharaj, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology, commented that this collaboration between UP and the RSR 'is an example of how academia and industry partner to meet the greater needs of society. The partnership is the first of its kind in South Africa and is envisaged to take South Africa to a globally competitive level in terms of Future Smart Transportation.'
Mr Poya said the agreement was a great milestone for higher education and the railway industry. 'Through this partnership with UP, the RSR will ensure that the industry has a pool of graduates who are trained to meet the railway safety requirements and challenges of the changing and growing railway industry. The course will prepare students for a career in rail safety informed by South Africa's vision for transport, as well as addressing the transformation imperatives in the industry, in line with government's transformation objectives.'
The MOA will benefit both parties greatly. The RSR will have the opportunity to articulate its training, research and development needs to UP, while the University will gain first-hand knowledge on the skills that are needed in the railway industry, enabling it to fully equip them to make a difference in the world the moment they graduate. High-level human capital will be developed right across the spectrum, from post-doctoral, Phd and master's research, as well as women in engineering, to professional development training courses that empower those already working in the industry to meet South Africa's future transportation, and particularly its RSR needs.
Prof Hannes Gräbe, incumbent of the Chair in Railway Safety in the Department of Civil Engineering, said that 'skills transfer, teaching and continued education are keys to unlocking the potential required to achieve short- and long-term goals in the rail industry, and investment in research and development will increase the competitive edge that transport by rail has over other modes of transport. As it is in all other public services and infrastructure development, safety is the number-one priority and we have much work to do to ensure that users of the rail transport service we provide arrive safely at their destinations. The cost associated with rail incidents warrants investment into the training of rail safety inspectors and we are excited about the opportunities that this partnership will create. In addition to the training, research projects will be initiated to address burning issues in the field of railway safety. We trust that this partnership will last for many years and that the fruit of our efforts will greatly benefit railways in South Africa'.
In addition to the Chair in Railway Safety, the Department of Civil Engineering also holds the Transnet Freight Rail Chair in Railway Engineering that was established more than 20 years ago. This Chair presents at least 12 short courses to industry every year. It is also responsible for technical support, problem solving, and research and development in the different railway disciplines. The activities of the Chair feed into the numerous postgraduate programmes in Railway Engineering presented by the University of Pretoria.
The MOA will be in effect for a period of five years starting at the beginning of the 2016–17 financial year.
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