Derailed PRASA loco still being tested, lacked safety permits

BY CHARL BOSCH - AUGUST 21, 2015

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has reportedly indicated that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) derailed Afro 4000 diesel locomotive, was still being commissioned and should not have been hauling a train with people on-board.

A reported 64 passengers were injured when the Shosholoza Meyl passenger train partially derailed near the town of Modderrivier in the Northern Cape on Tuesday night, some 500 metres from a bridge that had been undergoing regular maintenance.

It has been alleged that neither the driver nor his assistant had been informed about the repairs and that the train, which had been travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town, might have been going at his normal speed instead of the imposed 30 km/h on sections under maintenance.

“If there are passengers, it should be non-paying passengers such as technical staff members, who are part of the testing and commissioning,” RSR spokesperson Babalwa Mpendu was quoted by The Times as saying.

In a statement yesterday, PRASA spokesperson Mthura Swartz said the accident had nothing to do with the controversial locomotive’s flunking of height restrictions, after newspaper reports last month found that the 13 units made by Spanish manufacturer Vossloh Espana, exceeded the limits on sections with overhead wires, by measuring 4 140 mm instead of the required 3 962 mm.

Speaking in a statement, Democratic Alliance (DA) Deputy Shadow Minister for Transport, Chris Hunsinger, said the party would be submitting a motion to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport, to have PRASA explain why no safety permits had been issued for the trains.

“While there is no clarity on what caused the accident, it is cause for great concern that these trains were carrying passengers without the necessary clearance,” Hunsinger said, adding that a similar request will also be submitted to Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters.

“The Afro 4000 locomotives have been controversial from the outset. PRASA needs to explain to the committee why these locomotives were operational without a proper safety permit, thus putting people’s lives at serious risk”.

 

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