Site clearing and earthworks for the R1-billion Dunnottar train manufacturing facility, in Ekurhuleni, which is being developed by the Alstom-led (61%) Gibela consortium, is moving ahead, following the award of a contract to Trencon Construction, of Edenvale. The other members of the Gibela consortium are Ubumbano Rail (30%) and New Africa Rail (9%).
The site is being leased from the Ekurhuleni municipality and is also in relatively close proximity to the 80 000 m2 Commuter Transport & Locomotive Engineering complex, in Nigel, in which Alstom is purchasing a 51% stake.
The manufacturing facility, which will be situated at the old Dunnottar airport site, near Springs in eastern Gauteng, will be used to build 580 of the 600 trains to be supplied to the State-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) as part of a R51-billion multiyear contract awarded in early 2014. Each train will have six cars, translating to 3 600 cars in total.
The initial 20 X’Trapolis MEGA trains, which had been designed to accommodate South Africa’s 1.067 m gauge rail tracks, are being built at Alstom’s factory in Lapa, Brazil, with the first unit having been delivered to PRASA’s Wolmerton depot, in Pretoria, in December.
The trains will be configured as six-car sets able to transport 1 346 passengers and testing is expected to begin in February.
Gibela initially hoped to proceed with factory construction during 2015, but there have been delays in the issuance of various permits, including a water use licence. All authorisations were delivered by December, however.
The work package awarded to Trencon is for the preparation of the site ahead of the actual construction of the building facilities. Gibela reports that construction bids are currently being adjudicated and that the 18-month building programme should begin in May.
The timelines for the manufacture of the first locally made trains are still to be confirmed, owing to the delay in the start of the construction programme. Gibela says it will communicate revised timelines in due course.
The initial aim was to produce 60 trains and 360 cars a year for 10 years, while the contract also includes a 19-year service agreement.
Trencon, which is a level 2 broad-based black economic empowerment company, plans to employ various empowered subcontractors to prepare the site, including Xihungaso Construction Services, a black women-owned construction service provider.
Gibela CEO Marc Granger indicates that the site clearing and earthworks contract represents another step towards localising the manufacture of the X’Trapolis MEGA trains and says the factory will be a “catalyst for transformation in South Africa”.