We warned you about tall trains – Transnet boss to Prasa

2016-08-29 10:50
(Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

(Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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WATCH: Leaked video shows oversized Prasa trains narrowly missing workshop entrance

2015-09-18 14:43

Video footage has emerged showing Prasa locomotives inching their way into a workshop. The controversial Afro 4000 trains can be seen narrowly missing the workshop's overhead pass.WATCH

Johannesburg – A year before the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) started importing its controversial Afro 4000 locomotives, Transnet warned the agency that the trains were not suited for South Africa and would cause significant safety issues.

This was according to an exchange of letters between then Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) CEO, Siyabonga Gama, and Mosengwa Mofi, the CEO of Prasa's rail division, in March 2015, four months before details about the trains' unsuitability would be made public. Gama has since been appointed as group CEO of Transnet.

The letters were attached to court papers filed by Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday. Prasa now wants the R3.5 billion contract, awarded to Swifambo Rail Leasing in 2012, to be set aside by the court.

Molefe's latest affidavit contained startling claims that Swifambo paid millions of rands to an Angolan businesswomen after she'd allegedly demanded that its managing director pay 10% of the contract's value to the ANC.

Mofi, in a letter dated March 5 2015, complained to Gama that TFR was hampering Prasa's requisite testing of the Spanish-built Afro 4000s, the first of which arrived by ship in Cape Town in December 2014.

Non-compliance

"The Afro 4000 testing and commissioning for the dynamic testing has been completed in Prasa's Western Cape suburban network. However, the 3 000km fault free reliability testing that requires long distance routes cannot be completed as it requires access to the TFR network. To date, no permission has been provided for this testing to take place despite several requests made through our engineering department," wrote Mofi.

Gama responded the very next day, the letters attached to the court papers show.

"TFR Rail Network was approached by Prasa as far back as October 2013, i.e. approximately a year before the shipping of the locomotives, with respect to the introduction of the Afro 4000 locomotives on the TFR network. The locomotive's height dimension as advised by Prasa at that early stage exceeded the allowable height and consequently the clearances stipulated by the Electrical Safety Instructions, which was co-signed in April 2012 by Prasa and TFR," Gama responded in his letter.

"To date the technical committees and specialists have dealt with the matter at length since October 2013, and TFR has at every stage pointed out the non-compliance with respect to the height dimension and consequently the standard agreed in April 2012," wrote Gama.

Gama then elaborated on TFR's disapproval of the Afro 4000s introduction to South Africa's rail network.

Risks faced by rail operators

"To qualify TFR's concern with the non-compliances (sic) we want to note the risks faced by the rail operators where the Afro 4000 locomotive would traverse," wrote Gama.

According to his letter, TFR had concerns over "flash-over between the locomotive and the overhead (power) line due to the insufficient clearance, with the consequential risks of electric shock to people and damage to equipment on the locomotive; physical damage to overhead electrification equipment due to the electric faults that can result in hook-ups; (and) hot/polluted exhaust gas (from the locomotives) introduces the risk of consequential flash-over and contact wire damage," warned Gama.

His fears were later proved valid when the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) released its report on the locomotives in December 2015. The report included pictures of burn marks on the roofs of almost all 13 of the Afro 4000s imported into South Africa.

Asked for comment on Gama's letter, Transnet spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe said the company did not comment on issues involving its associated companies outside of its formal communications channels.

"Transnet has business agreements with all its partners. These agreements also dictate channels to be used in case a difference or an issue arises. Transnet will therefore adhere to these channels, should there be a need," said Likhethe.

Read more on:    transnet  |  prasa  |  popo molefe  |  tenders  |  government spending  |  corruption

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