Transnamib Sells Faulty Locomotives

TRANSNAMIB has finally decided to sell four locomotives bought in China for N$42 million in 2004 because they are unsafe to use.

The four CKD diesel electrical locomotives and 10 mainline railway passenger coaches were put on tender, with invitations sent to farmers, lodge owners, scrap steel dealers and other interested parties to submit offers.

The locomotives and the coaches were inaugurated in 2004 by the former TransNamib chief executive officer John Shaetonhodi, who described the acquisition as “an essential enabler of business growth and economic development”.

According to TransNamib’s senior engineer Joe van Zyl, however, they are selling the locomotives and the passenger coaches because they are unsafe.

“The CKD8C…the first batch of four locomotives bought from China are unsafe to operate due to poor braking and poor filtration systems. There are also interface problems between engine and alternator, and unsafe multiple locomotive working. The locomotives’ electrical systems are poorly designed, posing challenges to operate safely,” Van Zyl said.

He added that the coaches were redundant because of that excess capacity. The selling of the multi-million dollar locomotives and coaches came after 10 years, and van Zyl further said normally TransNamib’s locomotives and coaches should be in service for 47 years.

“The average age of our locomotives is 47 years and the coaches can be safely used for up to 60 years if well maintained,” the senior engineer said.

The four locomotives were purchased from Ziyang Locomotive Works, China North Railways, by Shaetonhodi as CEO and Matty Hauuanga as general manager of engineering.

There was controversy over their quality when the locomotives were purchased but the company had, at the time, maintained that it was a good deal.

Some TransNamib sources at that time also claimed that there were kickbacks paid in the deal and that some of the locomotives were loaded with gifts when they arrived at the Walvis Bay harbour.

However, none of those allegations could be proved. When TransNamib ordered the four locomotives, the company also rebuilt two others from a heap of scrap that had been written off by insurers.

Due to a shortage of appropriately skilled manpower in refurbishing locomotives, TransNamib hired 11 technical personnel from the Chinese government at that time. The refurbishment of a locomotive costs approximately N$1,3 million compared to the cost of a new general electric locomotive which was around N$21 million.

Back then Shaetonhodi also said there was need to modernise the current passenger transport capacity, adding that the modernisation programme would require approximately N$250 million in three years.

Source : The Namibian