Johannesburg – Transnet insisted on Thursday that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) owed it R1.3bn, saying this debt is "due and payable".
Transnet spokeman Mboniso Sigonyela said in a statement that it rejected Prasa's contention that the dispute over the debt is threatening to de-rail the long distance passenger train system, Shosholoza Meyl.
"Transnet is confident that the R1.3bn Prasa owes Transnet is due and payable and that all supporting documents substantiating these amounts have been provided to Prasa employees on various occasions, Prasa's consultants, and Prasa's external auditors," he said.
Sigonyela reiterated that Prasa unilaterally suspended Shosholoza Meyl on August 13.
"Transnet was never consulted nor informed of the decision or of the reasons behind Prasa's decision to discontinue its service," he said.
"The poor service levels alleged by Prasa to have impacted its ability to provide a reliable, safe and predictable service have not deteriorated to any significant degree since the business was managed by Transnet as indicated by Prasa's own due diligence report when it took over the business," he said.
"Consequently, it appears from press statements and Prasa communications that the decision to terminate the service was a commercial decision taken by Prasa and had nothing to do with Transnet's service levels or the outstanding debt," Sigonyela said.
He said Transnet Rail Engineering (TRE), a division of Transnet, had at no time refused to perform maintenance work on Prasa's locomotives.
Prasa instructed that TRE not perform any maintenance work without a purchase order, he added.
"However, Prasa did not comply with its own instructions. This resulted in a backlog of locomotives awaiting purchase orders for the required maintenance.
"The amount owed by Prasa to Transnet has not at any stage impacted Prasa's ability to run its long distance passenger services," Sigonyela said.