Sun, 17 Nov 2019

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has denied reports that Eskom came close to cutting power to some of its rail routes due to unpaid bills.

On Thursday, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said that president Cyril Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan had to intervene to avoid Eskom stopping power to Western Cape and Gauteng routes.

Netwerk24 reported that Eskom was planning to cut Metrorail's Strand line in the Western Cape on Thursday at lunchtime. Eskom also wanted to cut power to routes in Gauteng, according to a statement by the Western Cape government. Prasa is understood to owe around R250m to Eskom, Netwerk24 reported.

"(Ramaphosa and Gordhan) showed strong and decisive leadership in this respect, for which credit is due," Winde said

But Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani told Fin24 on Friday morning that all the agency's Eskom bills are settled, and that there was no threat from Eskom to cut power to its routes.

"I'm not sure where the premier got his information," Zenani said.

An Eskom spokesperson told Fin24 that it is bound by the confidentiality clauses of its Electricity Supply Agreement with PRASA and that the utility is not at liberty to disclose customer information to third parties.

Winde says the Western Cape government wants the opportunity to run the trains in its province, and he has written to Prasa's chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama to set up a meeting about the possibility.

"Looking at the state of our rail system and the constant delays on lines, it is clear that Prasa is barely able to manage its core business of keeping the trains running on a day to day basis. If it cannot manage its finances on top of this, then rail should be managed by an entity which can."

Recently, Fin24 reported on a proposal by Hosken Passenger Logistics & Rail, the company that owns Western Cape bus service Golden Arrow, to launch a private train service in the Western Cape.

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