The Democratic Alliance (DA) has revealed that no new brake blocks are available or in stock for the replacement of worn parts on South African trains.
According to the DA, train maintenance technicians and mechanics have to scratch in bins of used brake pads to find barely-usable spares to replace severely worn ones.
The DA said it has seen pictures of badly-worn brake spares and the bins which technicians desperately had to salvage parts from to keep trains running.
“The practice of salvaging used spare parts to replace worn parts places the lives of the millions of South African rail commuters in unimaginable amounts of danger,” the DA said.
It added that this practice will inevitably result in accidents, and worse fatalities, if not addressed immediately.
Trains are not rail-worthy
The City Press reported that the shortage of brake blocks is only one of many problems facing the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
“The rail utility is falling apart as it does not have oil to lubricate wheels, coach windows are missing, and wiring has been stolen,” the report said.
A Prasa service provider told the City Press that the rail utility used to order 1,500 brake blocks a month.
However, in the last six months, Prasa did not order any new brake blocks, which has clearly led to severe shortages.
“It is really a miracle that there has not been any train accident. Operating a train without brake blocks is like operating without a heart,” the supplier said.
A Prasa technician added that most of Prasa’s trains were not rail-worthy because they did not have brakes within the wear limit or windows.
Urging PRASA to take action
The DA said it would write to Prasa and the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) to address the issue.
It will request the organisations to make public plans on how they intend to address the lack of replacement brake blocks at Prasa’s maintenance facilities.
“We are of the view that it is in the public’s interest to know exactly how and when Prasa will restock its maintenance facilities with new replacement brake blocks,” the DA said.
The DA said it will closely monitor and follow up on Prasa’s progress given the instruction by RSR and will welcome this step in an effort to keep our commuters safe.