Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) Group CEO‚ Lucky Montana, on Monday defended the compliance of the Afro 4000 locomotives to meet local standards.
Prasa invited the media to ride the locomotives in Pretoria after a weekend in which the rail company again came under fire for the size of the trains, and their ability to meet the standards of the current infrastructure in SA.
The Rapport newspaper reported that Prasa’s own engineers warned that the Afro 4000 locomotives are too high and should be lowered.
The newspaper said that Prasa wanted to lower the height of the diesel locomotives from well over 4 metres to 3.965 metres.
The reason is that the current height of 4.14 metres is seen as dangerous because they will come very close to the height of poorly maintained overhead power lines.
However, Vossloh Espana, the manufacturer of the trains, said that lowering the height was not possible at such a late stage.
The thirteen Afro 4000 diesel locomotives that have so far been delivered to Prasa are worth R600 million and form part of a larger R3.5 billion order for 70 new locomotives.
On 6 July 2015, Montana rejected Rapport’s article.
Prasa stressed that the height of the new locomotives was 4.1 metres, and did meet all safety requirements, including a height restriction of 4.5 metres.
However, the latest report states that, while there is indeed a height restriction of 4.5 metres on overhead power lines, poor maintenance means that these lines are lower than that in many places.
The controversy deepened when it was alleged that Dr Daniel Mtimkulu‚ the designer of the new locomotives, and lead engineer at Prasa, is not qualified or registered with the profession’s statutory body.
He also claimed to have studied engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand before going on to study in Germany to get his doctorate‚ but Wits couldn’t find any record of him having been a student.
Prasa said on Friday that it would investigate the allegations.
On Monday, Montana told Talk 702, that “the locomotives fully meet the standards, they are fully compliant, and we demonstrated that in action more than in words.”
“And even in those areas where the infrastructure is not right – the rail safety regulator would require that both Transnet and Prasa take corrective steps, not because of the new locomotives, but precisely because there are safety issues,” he said.
“These locomotives can fit any part of the network.”
Montana, however, used a strange analogy to explain Prasa’s position.
He said he was given an analogy that said that when there is a road with potholes…and someone says that your vehicle (Mercedes) is not right for this road, the answer is to fix the potholes; its not to say that the vehicle is not the right one, when the potholes need to be fixed.
“The headlines used were sensational, they were not based on fact – they were aimed at putting prasa in a very bad light,” Montana said.
“Across the network, the issue is not the locomotives,” he said.