The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) recently unveiled its high-powered AFRO 4000 series diesel locomotives to improve the efficiency of passenger rail services in the country.
Prasa has noted that rail commuter services had been on a serious decline since 1990 as a direct result of under-investment, old technology, loss of critical skills, deferred maintenance.
Spanish company Vossloh Group was awarded the contract to supply 70 new high-tech locomotives – made up of 50 Euro Dual electro-diesel and 20 Euro 4000 diesel locomotives at a cost of R46 million each.
Testing was conducted for three months upon arrival of the locos in December last year.
The new locomotives, which began operation in March, would primarily serve the long distance market, while 10 of the 70 locomotives would be allocated to the Eastern Cape region.
The trains would run along six long distance corridors, including the Johannesburg to Cape Town route.
As soon as Prasa receives new stock during the first half of the year, these will be increased to 10 corridors.
The new locos have a driver display unit (DDU) with route management systems and train management systems for the driver to detect and reset any faults while in section and it is the first diesel loco in the country to have two driving cabs – it can be driven both directions without turning.
It is highly powered, is a multipurpose and can pull freight and passenger coaches.
Mega commuter trains
Prasa is also in the process of acquiring new, modern trains over the next 10 years after signing a R51 billion contract with the Gibela Rail Consortium.
Gibela Rail Transport Consortium will supply 600 X’Ttrapolis Mega commuter trains (3,600 cars) over a period of 10 years. The first trains are expected to run in November, this year.
The first 20 trains are being constructed in São Paulo, Brazil, by Gibela’s majority shareholder, Alstom Transport.
Gibela is a joint venture led by Alstom and co-owned by local shareholders, Ubumbano Rail and New Africa Rail.
It is planned that the remaining 580 new trains will be manufactured in South Africa, but only towards the end of 2016, and completed in 2027, according to Engineering News.
The contract includes the construction of a R1 billion, 600,000 m² local manufacturing facility in Dunnottar, 50 km east of Johannesburg.
In addition, Gibela will provide technical support and supply of spare parts over an 18-year period.
The project will create over 1,500 direct jobs in the local factory and 33,000 indirect jobs over 10 years, achieving a local content level of over 65%.
Up to 19,000 people will be trained by Gibela during the project.