Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth on September 14 unveiled Transnet’s first Covid-19 vaccination train – the Transvaco – in what Transnet says is its commitment to support the national vaccination effort and assist South Africa in achieving community immunity.
The new train, which will operate simultaneously with Transnet’s existing primary healthcare trainsets – Phelophepa I and II (which started operating in 1994), will extend the reach of government’s inoculation effort to reach communities in remote areas using Transnet’s established railway network.
Transnet says the cost of the Transvaco trainset is estimated to be R20-million, which is in addition to the R180-million Transnet spends on social investments yearly.
Following successful pilot projects whereby vaccines were administered through the Phelophepa trains, Transnet leveraged its experience in rail operations to build a nine-coach trainset from existing refurbished coaches.
These were configured to carry and provide safe vaccine storage, as well as to provide a mobile vaccine dispensing unit for remote communities that are in close proximity to rail corridors.
“Transnet has always been a reliable partner in the agenda to improve the socioeconomic circumstances of our people. Therefore the launch of the Transvaco in our province is a game changer, and will go a long way in supporting our vaccine rollout plan, and we urge our communities to take full advantage of this service,” she says.
Transnet Engineering CE Ralph Mills says Transnet has a long-standing commitment to finding solutions to health challenges in South Africa. “The 25-year-old Phelophepa and Transvaco trainsets are prime examples of this, and a demonstration of our commitment in supporting the government in addressing critical healthcare challenges.”
He adds that it is Transnet’s approach to “foster lasting change” through establishing long-term partnerships that enable the company to combine its internal skills, competencies, assets and resources with those of other organisations, such as the Department of Health, to deliver sustainable outcomes that meet the needs of communities.
The Transvaco project was engineered and built at Transnet Engineering’s facility in Koedoespoort, Pretoria.
Transnet Engineering, which is also responsible for the manufacture and maintenance of locomotives, freight wagons and other rolling stock equipment, is Transnet’s only manufacturing division.
The Transvaco trainset comprises different coach types, including the onboard vaccination coach.
The train uses “advanced technology” such as on-board WiFi, ultra-low temperature refrigeration to ensure safety of different vaccines and back-up power systems to ensure uninterrupted power supply, states Transnet.