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 4m to 3.965m.
The reason is that the current height of 4.14m 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.
This report follows a week of conflicting statements about the height of the new Prasa locomotives.
On 6 July 2015 Lucky Montana, CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), rejected Rapport’s article which claimed that its new batch of locomotives exceed the height restrictions for local tracks.
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 4.5m on overhead power lines, poor maintenance means that these lines are lower than that in many places.
Battle over Prasa head engineer
The Prasa CEO also suggested that the engineering team was being undermined because the lead engineer is black. He said that the motive for Rapport’s article ‘was probably a race issue’.
Network24 hit back with an article which showed that Prasa’s chief engineer, Dr Daniel Mtimkulu, is not officially registered as an engineer. Questions were also raised about his qualifications.
Prasa responded by saying that its chief engineer is not required to be registered as an engineer. They added that he is a qualified engineer.
But only a few days later Prasa said that it will investigate the allegations over the qualifications of its top engineer, Dr Daniel Mtimkulu.
“He (Mtimkulu) is a dynamic individual and a transformation leader who continues to play a major role in the revolution unfolding in the rail industry in the country,” said Prasa spokesperson, Moffet Mofokeng.
“(We) will, however, initiate a process to establish the veracity of these allegations.”
The full report is available in the Rapport newspaper of 12 July 2015