Transnet Foundation

Phelophepa Train

Phelophepa Train


Born in 1994, the two globally recognized flagship primary healthcare trains are fondly nicknamed ‘the miracle trains’ and ‘trains of hope’ by communities across South Africa. For many, the arrival of the Phelophepa trains in their communities signals the arrival of ‘good, clean, affordable, quality healthcare’. The name ‘Phelophepa’ means ‘good, clean health’ in Sotho and Venda and the news that Phelophepa is on the way, brings hope and anticipation to many of South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens.



The Health Clinic, sponsored by f Hoffmann-La Roche, focuses on general health and well-being of our patients.  Offering a range of free screening and testing of a variety of conditions; blood tests and a specialised focus on diabetes and various cancer education and screenings, every patient starts their journey to ‘good, clean health’ at this clinic when they get to the trains. The Health clinic also has a basic community health education programme offered to 20 community volunteers per station.  Much of the focus is on prevention, detection and early intervention health services.  Where patients cannot come to the Phelophepa, the Phelophepa community outreach teams go to patients!  The dedicated nursing staff arrange for visits to schools and community institutions to ensure increased access to health.


The Eye Care Clinic was the original focus of the train and consists of pre-screening areas and refraction rooms fully equipped with phoropters, eye test projection charts and bio microscopes. The eye clinics of both trains boasts ‘fundus cameras’.  This technology goes a long way to help the Phelophepa optometrists diagnose a range of diseases that impact the eyes. 


Attached to each of the optometry clinics are state of the art optical laboratories that enables the manufacture of patient spectacles on board the trains.  This much needed service contributes to the global ‘Vision 2020’ strategy that promotes the ‘right to sight’.  Once a patient is diagnosed to need spectacles, our patients are immediately able to access spectacles which can be bevelled and fitted within an hour. In a country where many of our citizens suffer from poor eyesight as a result of underlying health problems, Phelophepa brings to them the hope for improved eyesight!



The Dental Clinic, partially sponsored by Colgate Palmolive South Africa, is equipped with six dental chairs, x-ray units and state-of-the-art dental equipment. The Dental Clinic provides an ideal platform to treat each patient thoroughly, delivering preventative, holistic dental advice.  In many communities, dental assistance is scarce and very expensive.  Phelophepa provides patients with the opportunity to ‘smile’ after a visit to the dental clinic.  Again, understanding that many children do not access dental care services, the dedicated oral hygienist ensures visits to schools and institutions such as old age homes and frail care centres to ensure that no-one is left behind when the trains pull into a community!


The F Hoffmann-La Roche sponsored Pharmacy dispenses more than 20 000 prescriptions and 80 000 items of essential medication to patients annually. Two pharmacists and a pharmacy assistant educate patients on the importance of taking medication correctly and provides other supplementary information ensuring quality of care.  Special efforts are made with the most vulnerable of our communities, our elderly who get preferential treatment and education on chronic conditions and ailments.  Phelophepa is sensitive to language that can often be a barrier to understanding and has a unique pictogram system to ensure patients easy understanding of how to take medication correctly.



Sustenance is very important to maintain the health of our staff, students and community volunteers.  The in-house catering and hospitality department runs a tight ship preparing over 450 nutritious meals a day under the watchful eye of the Catering Manager and assistants.  In addition, final year catering and hospitality students gain practical experience by participating in the project.


The beating heart of Phelophepa is the team that keeps the trains technical operating systems functioning.  Without this unique expertise rendered by the Master Artisan / Millwright and technical workers, the power car which provides an independent electricity source to the trains; the ICT systems; water filtration and laundry machines; the waste removal systems and other innovative technologies that enable the smooth rendering of services to patients would not take place.

Transnet-Phelophepa I and II are a world class innovative healthcare facility of rails.  Using a unique human capacity recipe of a combinations of qualified staff and final year health professional students; a cadre of community volunteers and general workers, the trains operate from January to September each year, bring essential health services to an estimated 120 000 people through its on-board clinics and reaching a further 400 000 people through community outreach initiatives. It is this hope that we give to the people, and the smiles we bring out of our patients that has kept Phelophepa on the rails for over 25 years.