AFRICANGLOBE – As group CEO of the Passenger Rail agency of South Africa (PRASA), Tshepo Lucky Montana has embarked on a vast programme to invest in new rolling stock over the next 20 years.
It is likely to change the face of rail transport in africa’s largest economy, with the first trains expected in 2015.
Montana is no stranger to controversy.
In 2012, he was embroiled in a public spat with the influential black business Council and close allies of President Jacob Zuma over the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) model PRASA chose as part of its capital expenditure plan.
Some in the African National Congress (ANC) said Montana appeared to have built himself an empire at PRASA.
A factor in his favour though, is the good relationship he has with the leaders of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, aligned with the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, which is part of the South African government’s ruling tripartite alliance.
Montana, a former student activist, was previously the deputy director-general in charge of public transport at the Transport Department.
In april, he was appointed to a third three-year term at PRASA, allowing him to oversee the testing and commissioning of the country’s new commuter rail system.
PRASA said the investment was motivated by ageing rolling stock, with an average age of 36 years.
Seven companies and consortia submitted bids, and PRASA had set a 65 percent local content target.
In December 2012 Gibela Rail Transportation, a consortium of France’s Alstom and local company Actom, won the deal to manufacture the trains.
Alstom agreed to build 3,600 train carriages between 2015 and 2025 at a cost of more than R50bn ($5.6bn).
It must deliver test trains by the first quarter of 2015 and operational trains by the end of 2015.
But PRasa’s choice of the Alstom-led group has landed it in the courts.
In February, Dudula Rail, a group controlled by Switzerland-based Stadler Rail and partner ABB South Africa, asked for a review of the decision.
It goes before the North Gauteng High Court in late May and could be the biggest test yet for Montana, who declined to speak to reporters.
By: Crystal Orderson in Johannesburg