Alstom has announced the successful completion of the first 20 trains to revitalise the rail industry in South Africa. This is part of the €4 billion contract signed in 2013 to supply 600 X’Ttrapolis Mega trains over ten years to PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa). These 20 first trains were manufactured in Brazil at the Lapa plant, in São Paulo and sixteen trains are already in commercial operation in South Africa since May 2017, after the launch of the new, modern fleet by the South African president, Jacob Zuma.
“In addition to infrastructure, we are pleased to contribute with technical expertise for this project, providing access to modern rail technology systems and empowering."
Only half of South Africa’s railways ( @PRASAGroup ) are being fully optimised with just 35 percent of the nation’s tracks carrying no or very little activity. To keep the network profitable operators have been prompted to concentrate on freight rather than passenger traffic. Meanwhile, the country’s suburban trains which carry over two million commuters daily are forced to travel on a saturated network and have suffered 30 years of inadequate investment.
On average a train’s lifespan lasts for 54 years; but 51 percent of South Africa’s suburban trains are over 36 years old and modernising them at this time would incur huge costs.
Why is this revitalisation so necessary? A reader gives their personal insight into the trains serving the Cape Town region:
"For many, Metrorail is the only solution to travel to work. As the cheapest form of transport into the city centre there comes a compromise - Metrorail is hugely unreliable. Cable theft causes major delays, there are cancellations with a lack of infrastructure to supply replacement trains, unplanned strikes, mechanical failures and general poor maintenance. But one of the biggest problems is the commuter demand which greatly outweighs the number of scheduled trains for peak travel periods."
Looking to make fundamental improvements to the country’s infrastructure is Alstom. In December 2012, a South African joint venture Gibela majority owned by Alstom, was designated by PRASA as the preferred bidder for the revitalisation project. With the participation of local companies Ubumbano Rail and New Africa Rail, the consortium is building a plant in Dunnottar, 50 kilometres away from Johannesburg. At peak production, it is expected that the plant will produce 62 trains a year.
The PRASA project reaffirms Alstom's goal of establishing itself as the leader in fast growing markets. Alstom Brazil will continue transferring technology to Gibela’s technical staff until mid-2018. Training and development for engineers, designers, technicians, train drivers and technologists are key for the modernization of the rail industry in the country.
“In addition to infrastructure, we are pleased to contribute with technical expertise for this project, providing access to modern rail technology systems and empowering Gibela employees with various facets of rail skills,” says Rosângela Tsuruda, General Director of Lapa Unit.
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