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Cape Town - Lucky Montana on Wednesday defended the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) against the DA’s claims that a R3.5 billion locomotive acquisition deal should be investigated for irregularities.
Montana, Prasa’s chief executive, addressed the Cape Town Press Club and responded to concerns raised by DA transport spokesman Ian Ollis.
Ollis was present, and argued that a contract awarded to Swifambo Rail Leasing for the acquisition of 88 locomotives from Spain was unnecessarily expensive and that it would take jobs away from the country. The locomotives are due to reinvigorate Prasa’s Shosholoza Meyl long-distance services.
He said upgrades to locomotives produced locally by the Union Carriage & Wagon would be cheaper and would create jobs.
Montana said the tender process had been transparent and competitive. He disagreed with Ollis that the extra expense of the Spanish locomotives was unwarranted, saying they would significantly decrease travelling time between Joburg and Cape Town/Durban. Long-term maintenance would also be cheaper.
With regard to job creation, Montana said the trains would be assembled at a new factory in South Africa, which would employ locals. In general, he argued that the domestic economy had lost the design, engineering and infrastructural capacity to meet Prasa and South Africa’s needs for a modern long-distance rail network.
The DA says its call for the auditor-general to investigate the Swifambo contract is a step towards ensuring that future contracts in Prasa’s R123bn rolling stock programme are regular and legal.
Montana and Ollis agree on the general economic need for, and the importance of, the proposed upgrade and modernisation of Prasa’s fleet over the next few years. Montana this morning also highlighted the steady decline in Prasa’s capacity, technology and infrastructure over the last two decades.