The recent sporadic malfunctioning of the new passenger train is partly attributed to an ill-trained Botswana Railways employee who unwittingly mixed water with fuel in the tank, causing the locomotive to experience a string of technical and mechanical faults along the way.
The negligence costs government P14 820 as the employee was not initially familiarised with the new passenger train coaches’ services.
“Contamination took place in the country. The investigations have already been done. A BR worker was not taken on a familiarisation service of the new coaches of filling water in the fuel tank,” revealed the Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo, last week in Parliament.
Mabeo was responding to a supplementary question from Takatokwane Member of Parliament Ngaka Ngaka who alongside other legislators was adamant that the perpetual strings of faults in the new passenger train could have been the shoddy work of the manufacturer.
Commonly known as the BR Express, the passenger train’s brand new locomotives could not take off to an impressive start experiencing sporadic mechanical faults along the way upon the first commencement of service April.
A popular mode of transport among the locals along Lobatse-Ramokgwebana route at a cheaper price, the passenger train was unexpectedly terminated upon arrival of President Ian Khama as top man.
While the official stance was that the locomotives were too old for the safety of commuters, the grapevine has it the passenger train was terminated at the instruction of the then vice president Khama who queried the imbibing of “holy waters” in the public train.
But the risky and old passenger train coaches were sold to Mozambique where they are said to be making roaring business today.
After a long hiatus the passenger train was re-introduced in April to the delight of Batswana – this time around with a promise of sophistication and comfort.
But their excitement would be short-lived as the new passenger train experienced both mechanical and technical faults on its maiden journey, disrupting destinations’ arrival and departure times and attracting public uproar.
Mabeo insisted BR and the manufacturer’s team of engineers from Transnet Engineering conducted thorough checking of the workmanship of the locomotive before delivery, pointing a finger at the current harsh weather conditions as part of the problems that also contributed to the faults.
“With such current conditions the passenger train was bound to have teething problems,” he told Parliament, referring to the scorching heat of the summer season in April.
Mabeo was this time responding to Gaborone Central MP Phenyo Butale who also expressed also skepticism over the manufacturer’s workmanship.
To avert a similar predicament befalling the parastatal, Mabeo added that the First Class coaches delivered in the past two weeks were still undergoing the commission process.
At the commencement of the passenger train service various challenges were experienced including faults in the air conditioning system, the toilet system, electrical system and water contamination in the fuel tanks.
“All the other issues were resolved at the account of manufacturer/supplier except some of the costs associated with contamination of fuel,” said Mabeo, allaying fears that government could have been given a raw deal of footing the bill solely.
Shouldering the responsibility, BR drained all the contaminated fuel and cleaning, as well as the disposal of the unwanted substance.
MP for Francistown East Buti Billy had sparked the debate, asking Mabeo to update the House over the Botswana Railways passenger train’s recent debacle along with corrective and costs measures.