New trains hardly go any­where – not even slowly

CityPress - - News - PI­ETER-LOUIS MY­BURGH news@city­

Rail agency Prasa’s new Afro 4000 lo­co­mo­tives will not be al­lowed to travel on most of the main long-dis­tance rail routes they were orig­i­nally in­tended for.

On the pop­u­lar Shosholoza Meyl route be­tween Johannesburg and Cape Town, for in­stance, Prasa will only be al­lowed to use the Afro 4000s on the 25kV-line be­tween Kim­ber­ley in the North­ern Cape and Beau­fort West in the Ka­roo. The rest of the route is elec­tri­fied with 3kV over­head wires, which are gen­er­ally lower than the 25kV ones.

Prasa will also not be al­lowed to run the Afro 4000s on the Johannesburg-Dur­ban route, while the lo­co­mo­tives will only be al­lowed to travel on about a third of the route be­tween Gaut­eng and East Lon­don.

City Press’ sis­ter news­pa­per, Rap­port, this week learnt that Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) had de­cided that the rail agency’s con­tro­ver­sial Afro 4000 lo­co­mo­tives would only be al­lowed to travel on the rail net­work’s 25 kilo­volt (kV) and non­elec­tri­fied lines, and not on any of the coun­try’s 3kV lines.

The latest re­stric­tion means that Prasa won’t be able to use the Afro 4000s on the com­pany’s main Shosholoza Meyl long-haul routes un­less they are re­placed with other lo­co­mo­tives at key points on the routes.

TFR and Prasa’s own engi­neers have on sev­eral oc­ca­sions ex­pressed their con­cerns in emails and doc­u­ments about safety is­sues re­lated to the Afro 4000s’ height.

Prasa had in­tended to use the new lo­co­mo­tives on the com­pany’s long-dis­tance routes.

An ex­cerpt from the De­cem­ber 11 2014 edi­tion of the Prasa My­line mag­a­zine reads: “Prasa un­veiled its new and mod­ernised Afro 4000 se­ries diesel long-dis­tance lo­co­mo­tive at the launch held at Cape Town sta­tion on 1 De­cem­ber.”

At a press con­fer­ence in July, axed Prasa CEO Lucky Mon­tana said the Afro 4000s “would en­ter rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing long-haul pas­sen­ger ser­vices with Shosholoza Meyl by the end of Au­gust”.

But Prasa now seems to be singing a dif­fer­ent tune.

The com­pany stated in a writ­ten re­sponse: “[In­di­ca­tions that the lo­co­mo­tives would not be able to travel on the routes they were in­tended for] is fac­tu­ally in­cor­rect, as the Afro 4000 diesel lo­co­mo­tives were not meant to travel long-haul dis­tances men­tioned above, as it will not be cost­ef­fec­tive to run diesel lo­co­mo­tives on long-haul elec­tri­fied lines.

“Prasa’s Afro 4000 diesel lo­co­mo­tive de­ploy­ment plan has pri­ori­tised op­er­at­ing these [lo­co­mo­tives] on the 25kV and diesel [non­elec­tri­fied] lines, and that is why Prasa did not con­test Transnet’s ac­cep­tance to op­er­ate the Afro 4000 diesel lo­co­mo­tives on these lines, as it is in line with our de­ploy­ment plan,” said the com­pany.

It added that the is­sue around the use of the Afro 4000s on TFR’s 3kV lines had not been re­solved.

“Prasa and Transnet are in­volved in very con­struc­tive dis­cus­sions to re­solve the only out­stand­ing is­sue, which is around op­er­at­ing the Afro 4000 diesel lo­co­mo­tive on the Transnet 3kV lines,” said Prasa.

Mean­while, “Dr” Daniel Mtimkulu, who headed the pro­cure­ment process for the Voss­loh lo­co­mo­tives, was axed on Fri­day fol­low­ing a Prasa dis­ci­plinary hear­ing on Thurs­day, for which Mtimkulu did not show up.

Fal­si­fied aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions and even a fake job of­fer from a pri­vate en­gi­neer­ing firm, by means of which Mtimkulu man­aged to ob­tain a higher salary from Prasa, were pro­vided as ev­i­dence in the hear­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Beeld news­pa­per, Mtimkulu at one stage pro­vided Prasa with a “job of­fer”, which in­cluded a salary of R2.8 mil­lion per year, which he sup­pos­edly re­ceived from en­gi­neer­ing firm DB Schenker.

Mtimkulu’s salary at Prasa was con­se­quently ad­justed from R1.65 mil­lion per year to R2.8 mil­lion.

DB Schenker con­firmed to Prasa’s lawyers that they never made such a job of­fer to Mtimkulu, the dis­ci­plinary panel heard.

Mtimkulu could not be reached for com­ment.

Prasa’s Afro 4000s can only travel here

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