Cape Town – The DA has accused the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, of deliberately misleading Parliament on the dimensions of 13 new locomotives despite warnings by engineers on the matter.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) this year imported 13 new diesel units from Europe at a value of R600 million but, the DA says, they are believed to exceed by nearly 30cm the maximum roof height for the lines they are planned to run on.
The DA’s spokesman on Transport, Manny de Freitas said on Sunday that the imported trains – which form part of a larger R3.5 billion order – were “too high for local rail lines on long distance routes”.
The party had earlier this year submitted a parliamentary question to Peters, asking why the trains’ dimensions were different from the requirements.
Peters then assured Parliament that the new trains were not different in any form and were within the required scale, De Freitas said.
He said senior railway engineers also warned Prasa that the trains ordered from Spanish manufacturer Vossloh España exceeded the 3 955mm roof height by 299mm. The DA statement said the engineers warned that trains could damage the overhead electrical cables on the country’s rail lines.
The DA said it would approach National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to ask that she take action against Peters for providing “incorrect information”. The party also wants the documents pertaining to the contract to be made public.
Cope weighed in on the matter and asked whether the new trains would “stand in the rail yards unused like buses in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan”.
Cope said: “There are serious legal and career consequences for all those who acted in defiance of explicit warnings and rules.
“The media drew our attention to the pronouncement by the auditor general, last year, that Prasa had flouted its own tender regulations when it awarded the contract to Swifambo Rail Leasing.”
Cope called on the Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene and the minister of transport to launch an immediate and full investigation into this matter.
“We will certainly want the ministers to come before Parliament to account for yet another giant cock-up, if the allegations are true,” the statement said.
The Department of Transport and Prasa had not responded to queries at the time of going to print.