PRASA's Afro 4000 locos cleared for service despite height


The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has reportedly given the green light to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), to resume operations of its much maligned R600-million Afro 4000 diesel locomotives.

According to a statement released on Wednesday, the regulator found the Spanish-made locos suitable for use despite measuring 4 140 mm instead of the imposed 3 965 mm.

“The impact of this deviation is that there is a greater risk of interference between Overhead Traction Equipment and the locomotive,” the statement read.

It also stated that the locos were unable to maintain a vertical gap of 150 mm between the roof and wires, had a cab design unsuitable for South African conditions, and that some of the remaining 12 units suffered abrasion marks on their roofs while undergoing testing.

“With the exception of locomotive height limitations in certain areas of the network and subject to the highlighted conditions in this report, the PRASA Afro 4000 series locomotives possess acceptable performance capabilities to operate in the South African network,” the statement continued.

“The RSR reiterates that all the safety critical items identified and communicated with PRASA in this report must be addressed before an operating license can be granted for the locomotives to be operated on the South African network. These include the successful completion of the tunnel tests and the acceptance of the results by the RSR, cab ergonomics analysis – all of which must be submitted to the RSR for evaluation and assessment purposes”.

It added that the locos would only be used on Transnet’s 25 kilovolt lines in the Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape “provided that the conditions highlighted in the assessment are met”.

On Sunday, Rapport, who initially broke the news about the trains in July, alleged that PRASA Chairman, Popo Molefe, had filed papers in the Johannesburg High Court against procurement consortium, Swifambo Rail Leasing, for lacking the necessary experience when it received the contract for the trains.

PRASA had initially planned on purchasing 88 locomotives from manufacturer Vossloh Espana, but had to opt for 70 as result of misjudging the Rand / Euro exchange rate, which eventually resulted in the trains costing R5-billion instead of the previous R3.5-billion.

In September, it also revealed that six out of the 13 locomotives had been pulled from service due to regular maintenance and leaking brake compressor seals. A further two unit were halted as a result of accident damage with one being completely written off after derailing near Kimberly on August 19th.