By Thomas Mooney
“…significant milestone in the long journey we have been on so far, a journey of transforming and modernising our passenger rail system”.
South African Transport Minister Dipuo Peters this week unveiled the final design of the new state-of-the-art trains set to hit the South African railway tracks towards the end of 2015. The unveiling comes following Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) R51 billion deal with Gibela Rail Transport Consortium. Gibela, which is led by French transport infrastructure giant Alstom, plan to manufacture a total of 600 trains over the next 10 years. The first 20 of which will be manufactured in the Alstom Lapa (Brazilian) plant.
However, the deal will come as welcome news to South Africans as Gibela have also announced their plans to set up a plant in Dunnottar, 10km north of the Nigel, for the manufacturing of the remaining 580 trains.
The agreement will mean more than 500 South African technicians engineers and other professional will be trained in the skills and competencies required to build and deliver the modern trains. Is it expected that Gibela would directly employ around 1500 people with another 8000 direct jobs created within the supply chain process. Lucky Montana, CEO of Prasa, has claimed that the deal will result in as many as 33,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The agreement will help PRSA to towards achieving the aims of their rolling stock fleet renewal programme, one the most ambitious of its kind, while showing their overall commitment to modernise South African rail. Minister Peters said: “We are looking forward to the arrival of the new trains. As a government, we are excited that today marks yet another significant milestone in the long journey we have been on so far, a journey of transforming and modernising our passenger rail system”.
PRASA partnership with Gibela is part of a recent trend in development and forms part of a recent unprecedented boom in investment in South African rail and the continent generally. Countries such as Kenya, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Morocco have all benefited from such foreign investment as reported in SmartRail World previously.
See also: South Africa's long-distance rail network to modernize signalling systems. and 'Into Africa'- how Chinese funding helps fuel an African rail boom; projects in Kenya, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Morocco profiled.