/ 14 July 2015

Criticism of new locomotives has racial undertones – Prasa

Prasa Group CEO Lucky Montana.
Prasa Group CEO Lucky Montana.

“Those graphics [published in Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport] were not trying to empower the readers of Rapport but were meant to stir up emotions with racist undertones that we read yesterday,” chief executive Lucky Montana said in Pretoria on Monday.

“Probably today I’m making my last public comment on this issue. Hopefully after today it will become a rational and informative discussion rather than what we are currently seeing where it’s just a screaming game, which some of us unfortunately do not have time for. Our energies will fight for the real issues.”

Numerous journalists were taken on a ride on the Afro 4000 locomotives following weekend news reports that the locomotives were unsuitable for South African infrastructure as they were higher than the prescribed height restrictions.

“One of the major things that disappointed me a lot is the fact that when Rapport published what we maintain as a very erroneous, grossly inaccurate article about our trains, instead of taking accountability and dealing with those issues, they went on to mobilise their sister companies to do different things. For me it exposed the network that is currently in operation,” said Montana.

“The article was not only unfair but it was also wrong with a screaming headline saying this is the biggest tender blunder of our time. What worried me, from a leadership point of view, was the responses in Netwerk24 and News24. I was shocked by the racist undertones of the responses [to the Rapport story]. When I read the responses yesterday, I realised that we have a big problem.”

The blue train went to Pretoria north and returned to Pretoria central’s Bosman station without an incident. Several Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) executives were also on board.

Reports misleading
Prasa Rail chief executive Mosenngwa Mofi said the media reports on the Afro 4000 diesel locomotives were incorrect and misleading.

He said the gap between the minimum contact wire and the roof of the locomotives exceeded the 150mm prescribed in safety regulations.

“The allegations in yesterday’s Rapport and City Press are a sequel to a rather factually inaccurate article that was published in Rapport on July 5, 2015,” said Mofi.

“Prasa views this continued attack and misinformation in a rather serious light as it is aimed at undermining a very important investment to improve the transport system and change the travelling experience of South Africans forever.”

He said the locomotives “fully comply” with applicable safety standards.

“Prasa wishes to reiterate its firm view that the gap between the minimum contact wire and the roof of the locomotive far exceeds the minimum acceptable clearance height of 150mm as prescribed and therefore [it’s] safe for operating under electrical contact wire with a minimum height of 4.5m,” he said.

Mofi said the newspaper articles failed to acknowledge that Prasa had been granted permission by Transnet to test the locomotives on its 25 kilovolts and non-electrical lines.

“Indeed there has been a professional and robust and technical exchanges between Prasa and Transnet in relation to the testing of the Afro 4000 in the 3 kilovolts lines, which are not key for Afro 4000’s deployment plan. These discussions are ongoing and are aimed at finding a solution to this matter,” said Mofi.

“These articles concerned demonstrate a lack of understanding of the detailed, rigorous, elaborate and often contentious engagements that accompany design review processes.”

He said the Afro 4000 diesel locomotives were primarily aimed at operating on non-electrified lines.

Mofi said Prasa had been granted permission for testing and commissioning by the Railway Safety Regulator.

Prasa maintained the Afro 4000 trains were in sync with the prescribed Electrical Safety Instructions. – ANA