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Prasa asks Treasury to let it off the hook for R1.8bn debt owed to Transnet

Prasa asks Treasury to let it off the hook for R1.8bn debt owed to Transnet

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The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) yesterday implored parliamentarians in the transport portfolio committee to lobby the National Treasury to let it off the hook for an outstanding R1.8 billion debt it owes to Transnet.

Acting Group CEO Hishaam Emeran said: “The initial amount was R2.3bn, but we have settled some of it through an off-set agreement from what Transnet had to pay us. This money is required as a matter of urgency. We have made submissions through the Department of Transport to the National Treasury. We are awaiting feedback.“

Emeran told the committee, which was chaired by Lisa Mangcu, that Prasa ran 90% of its routes on Transnet tracks and was hard put to afford the access and service fees levied by its counterpart.

Prasa, which said it currently carries only about 30% capacity, said it had made a R900 million loss so far this year.

It said it spent 75% of its budget on variable costs of running the business, which included paying Transnet service and access fees as well as the purchase of diesel to run trains.

MPs were aghast that Prasa did not have its own capacity to generate revenue without state intervention and that it had a mammoth task to rebuild infrastructure destroyed through theft and vandalism.

Prasa told MPs that it was setting up a joint steering committee with Transnet to focus on the rehabilitation of the rail network as the latter’s rail lines were also not in good shape and that a joint servicing approach would be ideal.

Emeran said Prasa would mimic Transnet in de-electrifying its network and run mostly diesel locomotives despite the higher cost because of the rampant theft and vandalism of electrical infrastructure.

The entity also told MPs of 99% of patronage lost. This as its operations have whittled down to two corridors from 21, with only 12 000 out of 4 million passengers remaining, an income shaved off from R228 million to R2.8m and a train fleet down to 99 trains from 6 600 – all of which has crumbled in the past 12 years.

Prasa currently runs only two corridors, Johannesburg to East London launched in December last year, and Johannesburg to Musina launched in September this year.

Prasa, which invested more than R3bn in buying AFRO Hybrid and AFRO 4000 trains in the now infamous “Tall Trains scandal”, sits on the sidelines awaiting the resolution of the fight between its contracted supplier and the original manufacturer of the locomotives currently idling at a port in Valencia, Spain.

“The trains are still at a Valencia, Spain, harbour. It is a matter between the liquidators and the manufacturers of the locomotives. There is no parallel process over and above this at Prasa to acquire trains. It is critical that we get closure on the AFRO locomotives because there is no other process,“ Emeran said.

Prasa is looking at means to dispose through sales on the African continent of more than 4 500 coaches of the red and grey models to make way for the rolling stock it has acquired, which need modifications for local conditions.

Emeran told of the disposal by the liquidators of seven locomotives, which were sold at an aggregate of R10m each when between R40m and R50m had been expected.


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