• South Africa Grade X-ing - Eighteen Fatalities

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
The New York Times reports on this major grade X-ing incident occurring January 4:

http://nytimes.com/2018/01/04/world/afr ... crash.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Fair Use:
..CAPE TOWN — A passenger train burst into flames on Thursday after striking two vehicles at a crossing in a remote part of central South Africa, killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 260, the authorities said.

Mondli Mvambi, a spokesman for the provincial health department, said that a truck driver had miscalculated the train’s speed and tried to dash across the tracks at the crossing, just outside the town of Kroonstad, and that a passenger vehicle had also been involved.

“The death toll may rise,” Mr. Mvambi said. “Three burned carriages are yet to be lifted to check if anyone is trapped inside. It can take 36 hours. Rescuers are working as fast as they can
  by johnthefireman
I haven't been on that route, but the rolling stock is very familiar to me and it's sad to see such an accident. I've been posting a variety of reports on the Friends of the Rail Forum at http://friendsoftherail.com/forum/viewt ... 403#p40403" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It's frightening when you're on the footplate approaching a level crossing and drivers are just speeding across ahead of you. Even when some sensible drivers stop, others overtake them and keep on nipping past until the last moment. Madness.
  by johnthefireman
Interesting question and I don't know the answer. They are steel coaches, and one would think that the material used for seats, tables, cladding etc would have a degree of fire resistance, but maybe not. Conversations on a South African group suggest that it wasn't the diesel in the locomotive or the generator car which caused the fire, as both of those seem to be unburnt.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Ashworth, it certainly appears that your politicians over there are no different than around here - always someone to blame other than themselves for not properly funding passenger rail. One article or the other you linked reports that ZA rail ridership is declining. Sorry to hear that.

With the Rainbow livery you have nowadays, I'd think it hard for the truck driver not to see that train. Also of interest, the line appears to be electrified, yet the train was being handled by a US or Canadian (EMD) Diesel locomotive.
  by johnthefireman
The train is being hauled by a diesel hired in from Sheltam (a private company that provides motive power and other rail services across Africa), a common occurrence these days, I'm informed, due to shortage of locomotives by PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa). I believe it is built by GE. Not sure also why an electric unit isn't being used on that route, but PRASA is short of both electric and diesel traction.

Currently there are court battles going on over the debacle where PRASA ordered a batch of diesels from Vossloh in Spain, based on the Euro 4000 and designated Afro 4000, and only when they arrived in South Africa did someone notice that they are out of gauge, slightly too tall to run safely on certain routes. Pity, as they are nice looking locos!

And yes, I think politicians are the bane of railways across the world! Both Transnet (the freight company) and PRASA have suffered from lack of investment and from political interference. The general condition of the rail network is deteriorating. South Africa railways also suffer badly from vandalism. Commuters regularly set fire to trains and stations when they are delayed, and theft of cables, sleepers (ties) and rails is a major problem.

My operational experience is on steam locos. We've been derailed several times due to theft of sleepers or rails, we are frequently delayed for hours by signal or points (switches) failures due to vandalism, and on some stretches of track the signalling is out for months on end, necessitating a stop at each signal to phone for authority to pass a signal at danger.
  by Gilbert B Norman
John, no wonder "a friend of a friend", who I met in Indianapolis on "that American Holiday in November", living in Pretoria said she "had never set foot" on a train - she has lived there for over thirty years.

But she "had heard of" the Blue Train.
  by Gilbert B Norman
As they say "over here"; "you can smell the meat a cooking":

http://news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/excl ... s-20170310" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Fair Use:
...Johannesburg - Less than a week after Prasa made its first payment of nearly R500 million to the supplier of the controversial Afro4000 locomotives, the latter's managing director paid an amount of R14.3 million into the account of a lawyer who had introduced himself as a fundraiser for the ANC.

This transaction by Auswell Mashaba, MD of the Swifambo Rail Leasing, would be the first of several payments totalling R80 million that were made by Mashaba to George Sabelo, the ANC-linked lawyer, and Maria Gomes, an Angolan citizen who calls herself a friend of President Jacob Zuma
It certainly appears that not only with the Grade X-ing incident but also this matter, the freight agency and the passenger agency will be after one another in Court with the barristers taximeters ticking away while "government sues government".
  by johnthefireman
Gilbert B Norman wrote:she "had never set foot" on a train
Not surprising. Many middle class South Africans have never set foot on a communter train, and the long distance trains are now few and far between. To be fair, the Blue Train and the Premier Classe trains are very high quality, but they still suffer delays due to vandalism and theft on the rail infrastructure. South Africa also has the super-luxury private operator Rovos Rail, but their prices are beyond the reach of most ordinary mortals.

It also has to be said that South Africans in general share the American obsession with the private automobile, and the roads in South Africa are very good indeed, so there is little incentive to switch to rail, particularly as rail is relatively slow. I have friends who regularly drive the thousand miles between Jo'burg and Cape Town in one day (an eighteen-hour day starting early in the morning and arriving late at night) whereas the train takes 27 hours if there are no delays, and several hours longer if there are. For me it is no contest - the comfort and relaxation of being aboard a long-distance train always beats being confined in a car or bus whatever the time factor - but for the modern automobile generation, the train holds no attraction.
  by Gilbert B Norman
The woes of the Passenger Rail Authority of South Africa have only been compounded by COVID:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/lo ... d=msedgdhp

What escapes me is that the PRASA did not keep the catenary energized - that might have made the thieves think twice; well at least when they saw/learned of one them become a "krispy kritter".