PRASA trains: Documents reveal concerns over clearance

BY CHARL BOSCH - JULY 13, 2015

A request by the Passenger Rail Agency of South African (PRASA) to have the roofs of its controversial R600-million Afro 4000 diesel locomotives lowered, was reportedly turned down by Spanish manufacturer Vossloh España, who further insisted that the trains would remain acceptable for local use.

According to leaked documents obtained by Rapport over the weekend, the rail operator reportedly issued a so-called “SOS” message to Vossloh in November 2013, asking whether the roofs could be lowered from 4 140 mm to the required 3 965 mm limit imposed on diesel locos.

In a letter posted shortly afterwards, Vossloh replied, “Although it is not possible to reduce Euro 4000 locomotives’ height below 4 140 mm ... it is understood that with actual height and with the information we manage, the locomotives should be acceptable for operations on South African tracks”.

The paper also alleged that a report issued by PRASA in February this year found that the locomotives had, in some areas, come close to touching overhead wires, and that CEO Lucky Montana’s claims of the University of Stellenbosch having approved their clearing, was incorrect as the university had stated that they were not safe under “all” rail conditions.

It was also revealed that poorly maintained lines had resulted in some the cables sagging to as low as 4.2 m, well below the accepted 4.5 m needed for a safe underpass, and that the locomotives would have cleared the wires underneath Johannesburg’s Denver bridge with 10 cm to spare.

Speaking during the press briefing last week after the paper’s original report, Montana stated that the locos, intended for use on long distance routes, had caused no damage to tunnels and bridges or come into contact with overhead wires during a three month testing period, and that the allegations been included to discredit PRASA’s workings and its employees.

Rapport has however stated that an e-mail send to Transnet and PRASA employees in March, criticised the decision to have a premier-class train pulled by the Afro 4000 to the Johannesburg Jazz festival, due to clearance concerns on a section near Kimberly.

A press statement on the latest findings is expected to take place later today.

 

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