The Phelophepa miracle train

Bringing hope and health to rural communities.

In the past, rail transport often formed the backbone of many countries transportation requirements. South Africa is no different with almost all major South African cities and rural areas connected by rail. With this in mind, Transnet realised they could use this opportunity to help disadvantaged communities by creating something more than just transport. Together with their partners, Transnet created a rolling hospital in the form of the Phelophepa health care train with Roche ( being Phelophepa’s main external sponsor, providing funding since the train took its first journey in 1994.

The Phelophepa Health Care Train (also called the miracle train) traverses the country over the space of 36 weeks, delivering top class medical care to thousands of people. The focus is on areas without easy access to health care facilities.

The word “phelophepa” is made up of a combination of words from Sotho and Tswana, which are two of South Africa’s eleven official languages, and literally translates to “good clean health”.

This train is a social responsibility project undertaken by the Transnet Foundation to give back to the communities that need it the most.

The importance of the initiative becomes clear once you see the distances rural patients need to walk in order to access some semblance of health care. With Phelophepa, quality health care is brought to the people, for the people.

Currently, the second train consists of 19 full-time staff and 39 final year students and it reaches approximately 156 000 people per year.

The train has also been used for final year medical students to gain valuable experience. Annually, approximately 1 200 final year students practice onboard Phelophepa.

The train offers eye and dental care, screening for diabetes and cancer, as well as psychological counselling services. An on board pharmacy dispenses all the necessary medication. Many of the services are free and where costs are involved they are kept as low as possible.

The aim of the train is not just to provide quality mobile health care, but also to offer opportunities for community upliftment. Active members in the community market the train’s arrival to ensure that the surrounding areas are aware of when Phelophepa will be available. Community members are also employed to help with the setup for the train at each of its stations.

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