South African Class Afro 4000

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

South African Class Afro 4000
Class Afro4000 4007.jpg
No. 4007 at Beaufort West, 15 September 2015
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Designer Vossloh España
Builder Vossloh España
Serial number 2781-2800
Model Afro 4000
Build date 2014-2015
Total produced 20
 • AAR C-C
 • UIC Co'Co'
 • Commonwealth Co-Co
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 1,067 mm (3 ft 6.0 in) new
991 mm (3 ft 3.0 in) worn
Minimum curve 90 m (295 ft)
 • Bogie
3,600 mm (11 ft 9.7 in)
Pivot centres 14,600 mm (47 ft 10.8 in)
 • Over couplers 23,020 mm (75 ft 6.3 in)
 • Over beams 22,800 mm (74 ft 9.6 in)
Width 2,850 mm (9 ft 4.2 in)
Height 4,140 mm (13 ft 7.0 in)
Axle load 20.5 t (20.2 long tons; 22.6 short tons) ± 2%
Loco weight 123 t (121 long tons; 136 short tons) ± 3%
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel capacity 6,693 litres (1,472 imp gal)
Lubricant cap. 1,300 litres (290 imp gal)
Coolant cap. 1,500 litres (330 imp gal)
Sandbox cap. 480 litres (110 imp gal) in 8 sandboxes
Power supply Marathon 64V/L2V-420Ah battery
Prime mover EMD 16-710G3B-T2
RPM range 200-904
 • RPM low idle 200
 • Maximum RPM 904
Engine type 2-stroke diesel
Alternator CA6 3 phase ACV 10 pole
215 V between phases at 904 rpm
120 Hz at 900 rpm
Generator Main: AR20 DCV
Max output current 8100 A
Max output voltage 1465 DCV
Auxiliary: Brushless type
Output 74 DCV
Continuous power 25 kW
Traction motors Six type D43-TR DC
 • Continuous 950A
Cylinders 16 V (45°)
Cylinder size 230.2 by 279 mm (9.06 by 10.98 in)
Gear ratio 67:18
Loco brake Electro-pneumatic, Dynamic
Air tank cap. 800 litres (180 imp gal)
Compressor Knorr-Bremse - Max effort 91 kilonewtons (20,000 lbf)
Exhauster Gardner Denver WLSA9F - 117cfm ICFM @ 1050rpm & 140PSIG
Safety systems Overspeed: Traction power cutout at 132 km/h (82 mph), emergency brake application at 136 km/h (85 mph)
Couplers AAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed 130 km/h (81 mph)
Power output 3,178 kW (4,262 hp)
Brakeforce 1,500 kW (2,000 hp)
Dynamic brake peak effort 141 kilonewtons (32,000 lbf) @ 41 km/h (25 mph)
50 kilonewtons (11,000 lbf) @ 120 km/h (75 mph)
Operators PRASA
Class Afro 4000
Number in class 20
Numbers 4001-4020
Delivered 2014-2015
First run 2014

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa Class Afro 4000 of 2014 is a South African diesel-electric locomotive.

In late November 2014, the first of an intended twenty new Class Afro 4000 diesel-electric locomotives for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) came ashore in Table Bay Harbour. The locomotive, the first new engine to be acquired by PRASA since its establishment, was officially unveiled at Cape Town Station on 1 December 2014.[1][2][3]


The South African Class Afro 4000 is a 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge version of the Euro 4000 which has been built since 2007 by Vossloh Rail Vehicles of Albuixech, Valencia for European 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge and 1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in) Iberian gauge railways. A number is also in use by Israel Railways.[4][5]

Swifambo Rail Leasing[edit]

The intended twenty Afro 4000 diesel-electric locomotives, to be followed by fifty Vossloh-built AfroDual electro-diesel locomotives, were acquired by Swifambo Rail Leasing, a Black Economic Empowerment rolling stock operating front company, and would be operated by PRASA on lease.[3][6]


The locomotive has a Co-Co axle configuration, two-cab design, DC main and auxiliary generators and an AC auxiliary alternator, with six DC traction motors. While the majority of South African mainline electric locomotives to date have been dual-cab units, the two-cab design is a new feature on South African mainline diesel-electric locomotives. It allows travel in both directions without the requirement for turning facilities at terminals.[1][3][4][7]

As a result of the narrow Cape Gauge, there was insufficient space on the axles to accommodate disk brakes. The locomotive is therefore equipped with the older design tread brakes. In addition, the locomotive's brake system was modified so that the driver can isolate the locomotive brakes from the train brakes in situations where it is not necessary to activate the whole train's brakes.[8]

Works plate on no. 4012

The locomotive is equipped with a state-of-the-art communications system and Global Positioning System (GPS) to permit the railway to keep track of each train at all times. A Groupe Spécial Mobile (Global System for Mobile Communications or GSM) data transmission system ensures that any maintenance and repair work required is immediately relayed to the maintenance depots, thereby minimising downtime. Minimum maintenance and repair costs are made possible by a modular design which permits easy assembly, disassembly and complete module replacements with easy access to components.[1][3][4]

The locomotive provides optimum driving conditions with a spacious cab which offers the driver unobstructed external vision. The cab is separately air-conditioned to assure agreeable conditions for the driver and features fire-protection. The windscreen is shock-resistant to further enhance the driver's safety and also ensures minimum noise levels in the cab. An integrated crash system ensures that both the driver and the locomotive are protected in the event of a collision.[4]

Like many contemporary European locomotives which only require one crew member driving from a central position, the Afro 4000 was originally designed with only one centrally positioned seat. As a result of trade union pressure, another seat had to be added at a late stage which resulted in a cab design which has both seats occupying not much more than half of the cab area.[9]


The Class Afro 4000 was the first new locomotive type to be acquired for PRASA since its establishment on 23 December 2008. It was officially unveiled at Cape Town Station on 1 December 2014. To date PRASA had been using electric and diesel-electric locomotives which had first entered service in the 1970s during the South African Railways era, and a number of Class 18E electric locomotives which had been rebuilt from older Class 6E1 units. Following testing, the first of the new locomotives entered trial service in April 2015, pending clearance for operational use by the Railway Safety Regulator.[1][10]

It was intended to employ ten of the Afro 4000 locomotives on commuter runs in the Eastern Cape working out of Port Elizabeth and East London, where PRASA had been dependent on diesel-electric locomotives hired from Transnet Freight Rail. The rest, along with the AfroDual electro-diesel locomotives, would be employed on six Shosholoza Meyl intercity passenger routes throughout the country. The new locomotive fleet was intended to help resurrect PRASA's mainline passenger services which had been steadily declining over several years as a result of poor management and infrastructure theft, which led to late departures and arrivals, trains cancelled without notice, breakdowns which left passengers stranded, poor rolling stock maintenance, lax and indifferent onboard service and torched trains.[11][12][13][14]

PRASA's decline has seen the total volumes carried by Shosholoza Meyl mainline passenger services drop from three million annually in 2009/10 to less than one million in 2014, while the number of trains operated was halved from 6,000 to 3,000 annually. Eight scheduled mainline train routes were discontinued by PRASA in the same week that the first Afro 4000 locomotive was unveiled, while another four mainline train routes were curtailed by discontinuing trains on certain weekdays. Some of these trains were reintroduced in April 2015.[15][16][17][18]

Loading gauge controversy[edit]


The Euro 4000 locomotive was designed to operate throughout Europe and is 4,264 millimetres (13 feet 11.9 inches) high above the railhead. During the tendering and negotiating process, PRASA submitted a loading gauge specification which called for a maximum height of 4,140 millimetres (13 feet 7.0 inches). Since the latter height was feasible by only modifying the detachable roof structures and some components without affecting the carbody structure or requiring major modifications, Vossloh España proceeded with the locomotive design once the contract was signed.[19][20][21]

The Transnet Freight Rail loading gauge specification which had been submitted during the tender phase when only the Euro Dual electro-diesel locomotive was being considered in the scope of the contract, was one which made special allowance for the pantographs on electric locomotives to exceed the actual maximum height of 3,965 millimetres (13 feet 0.1 inches). The loading gauge specification for diesel-electric locomotives and other rail vehicles, specifying a maximum height of 3,965 millimetres (13 feet 0.1 inches) above the railhead, was submitted to the manufacturer in October 2013 after the locomotive design was completed. The two loading gauge versions are identical in respect of roof profile and height, and differ only in respect of the special provision for the pantographs on electric locomotives to exceed the prescribed maximum height.[19][20][21]

Since reducing the locomotive height to 3,965 millimetres (13 feet 0.1 inches) would require a complete re-design of the vehicle equipment and the carbody structure and since the Afro 4000 locomotive, as already designed, would fit into the first submitted loading gauge for electric locomotive pantographs, PRASA accepted the locomotive design at the 4,140 millimetres (13 feet 7.0 inches) height.[19][20][21]

Height constraint tests[edit]

In January and February 2014, PRASA conducted height verification at bridges with notable height constraints at Jeppe, Denver, Driehoek and New Era, towing Class 7E2 no. E7201 which is 4,190 millimetres (13 feet 9.0 inches) high with pantographs down and with a carbody height of 3,942 millimetres (12 feet 11.2 inches). Of these locations, the lowest measured height of the contact wire above the railhead was 4,150 millimetres (13 feet 7.4 inches) at Denver. The pantographs in the housed position began to foul and lift the contact wire approximately 10 metres (32 feet 9.7 inches) from the bridges and at Denver and New Era stretched the cross spans.[20][21][22]

Similar tests were carried out between Beaufort West and Cape Town towing Class 7E no. E7058, which is 4,200 millimetres (13 feet 9.4 inches) high with pantographs down and with a carbody height of 3,942 millimetres (12 feet 11.2 inches).

The resulting report concluded that the Afro 4000's structure gauge does not fit in the South African infrastructure clearance envelope. While the PRASA rolling stock, the Class 7E and 7E2 locomotives which were used during the tests, also do not comply with the structure gauge clearance under the bridge, there was no direct contact of the carbody with the overhead contact wire since the pantographs are insulated from the roof. The Afro 4000, however, has a minimum calculated roof clearance of only 10 millimetres (0.4 inches), which poses an operational electrical risk. Since it does not fit the designed earth clearances at bridges and tunnels and the height of the locomotive encroaches too close to the contact wire, the risk to the driver and the locomotive is high. One of the recommendations was that delivery of the Afro 4000 should be delayed, pending a suggested design review.[20][21][22]

Post-delivery testing[edit]

In spite of the recommendations, the first locomotive was delivered in November 2014. On 13 July 2015, with thirteen locomotives already delivered and following a press report about the excessive height of the Afro 4000 locomotive, PRASA Chief Executive Officer Lucky Montana denied that the locomotive's height was excessive and insisted that PRASA had followed a strict design review process. Two days later, on 15 July, Montana was dismissed, followed on 17 July by the suspension of chief engineer and "designer" of the locomotive "Doctor" Daniel Mthimkhulu on account of his fictitious academic qualifications.[20][21][23][24][25][26][27]

No. 4010, derailed at Modderrivier on 19 August 2015

On 19 August 2015, during the locomotive's trial period pending clearance for operational use by the Railway Safety Regulator, one of the locomotives was involved in a passenger train derailment at Modderrivier south of Kimberley. The integrated crash system was severely put to the test during the derailment, since the locomotive struck a catenary mast while toppling over and suffered extreme damage to the cab which resulted in serious injury to the driver's assistant.[28][29][30]

Tender collusion[edit]

With only thirteen of the twenty locomotives delivered, PRASA chairman Popo Molefe approached the High Court in Johannesburg in November 2015 in an attempt to have the R4,800,000,000 locomotive contract with Vossloh España cancelled on the grounds of blatant collusion during the tender process. In an affidavit, Molefe laid out details of how the tender was allegedly rigged and specifically designed to favour Swifambo Rail Leasing, a front company owned by Black Economic Empowerment beneficiary Auswell Mashaba which was allegedly formed specifically for the "joint venture" transaction with Vossloh España.[31]

On 2 July 2017 the High Court in Johannesburg struck down the contract, finding that the tender was rigged to favour Swifambo Rail Leasing who used its Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment rating to front for the Spanish manufacturer. With R2,600,000,000 already paid by Prasa to Swifambo for only thirteen unusable locomotives delivered, the process to recoup the money has yet to begin.[32][33]

Works numbers[edit]

The locomotive unit numbers, works numbers and years of construction are listed in the table.


The Class Afro 4000 locomotives were delivered in the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's blue livery.


  1. ^ a b c d SA gets high powered locomotives - fin24, 1 December 2014 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  2. ^ Vossloh Rail Vehicles Press Release, 10 October 2013 - Vossloh gains large order in South Africa (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  3. ^ a b c d Railways Africa, 2 Dec 2014 - New PRASA Locos Arrive (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  4. ^ a b c d Vossloh Rail Vehicles - The Euro 4000 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  5. ^ "Vossloh Extends Israel Contract by €30 Million". El País (in Spanish). 10 September 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  6. ^ Swifambo Holdings - Our Company's History (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  7. ^ PRASA Data Sheet on the Afro 4000
  8. ^ Facebook Group Railways of the World - Comment by Jade Wilson (Accessed 7 July 2015)
  9. ^ SAR-L YahooGroup message 49144 of 18 May 2015 (Access date 20 May 2015)
  10. ^ Railways Africa, 21 Jan 2015 - Kiss For A Lady From Spain (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  11. ^ Railways Africa, 9 Dec 2014 - SA Intercity Trains Cut Archived 10 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine. (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  12. ^ Railways Africa, 9 Dec 2014 - PRASA Today. Well, Last Month… (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  13. ^ Railways Africa, 27 Jan 2015 - Electric Train Running on Empty (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  14. ^ Railways Africa, 17 Mar 2015 - Shosholoza Meyl JBG-CT (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  15. ^ Railways Africa, 21 Oct 2014 - Disquieting MLPS Figures at PRASA’S AGM (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  16. ^ Railways Africa, 9 Dec 2014 - PRASA "Profit" Questioned (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  17. ^ PRASA Media Release, 27 November 2014 - Mainline Passenger Services Cancels Some Train Routes (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  18. ^ Railways Africa, 7 Apr 2015 - Intercity Services Restored (Accessed 1 May 2015)
  19. ^ a b c Document: Vossloh Euro 4000 Locomotives/Swifambo Holdings Document: 20131113 PRASA E4000 Height Issue v2(1) - Locomotive Height: Euro 4000 Diesel Locomotive, 13 November 2013
  20. ^ a b c d e f Só wou Prasa treine krimp - Rapport, Sondag 12 Julie 2015.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Prasa, Transnet had concerns over locomotive height - documents (Accessed 14 July 2015)
  22. ^ a b PRASA Report: Engineering Report Electrification Infrastructure - Bridge Height Constrained Clearances Verification Using a 7E Class Locomotive, 18 February 2014
  23. ^ IOL News - Prasa unveils new modern locomotive. 2 December 2014 (Accessed 8 July 2015)
  24. ^ BusinessTech - Prasa CEO: Top engineer targeted because he is black. 6 July 2015 (Accessed 7 July 2015)
  25. ^ AFRO 4000 - Prasa sweer hoog en laag by loko's - Die Burger, Dinsdag 14 Julie 2015, p.2.
  26. ^ fin24 - Prasa CEO dismissal: Rapport editor reacts. 16 July 2015 (Accessed 16 July 2015)
  27. ^ fin24 - Prasa head engineer suspended. 17 July 2015 (Accessed 18 July 2015)
  28. ^ Netwerk24, 19 August 2015 - Kyk: Wiele, kabels afgeruk toe nuwe lokomotief, treinwaens ontspoor (Accessed 18 January 2016)
  29. ^ Netwerk24, 19 August 2015 - Nuwe Prasa-lokomotief, passasierstrein ontspoor in Noord-Kaap (Accessed 18 January 2016)
  30. ^ News24, 19 August 2015 - Construction, lack of communication likely caused derailment - Prasa (Accessed 18 January 2016)
  31. ^ Jika, Thanduxolo (2015-11-29). "Take back your trains: Prasa seeks refund in dodgy tender debacle". Sunday Times. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  32. ^ Netwerk24 – ‘Dé, kom haal jul treine’. Netwerk24, 3 July 2017 (Accessed on 6 August 2017)
  33. ^ Swifambo Rail Leasing ordered to pay back R2.5BN to Prasa. Eyewitness News, 3 July 2017 (Accessed on 6 August 2017)