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New plant planned for Dunnottar as commuter train deal closes

16th May 2014

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

  

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The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and Gibela Rail Transportation has achieved commercial close on the contract to supply the State-agency with 600 commuter trains (3 600 coaches) over the next ten years.

The deal will play a vital role in revitalising the ailing Metrorail passenger rail network.

The R51-billion contract to supply the trains was signed in October last year.

The deal, which included the construction of a local train manufacturing plant, came into effect on April 26. The price tag is subject to inflation and foreign exchange adjustments based on euro/rand fluctuation.

Gibela is held 61% by Alstom, 9% by New Africa Rail and 30% by Ubumbano Rail – the hosting entity in the National Empowerment Fund for the black economic-empowerment partners, the Gibela and Prasa employees, as well as an education trust.

Financial close means manufacturing of the new train sets can start, with the first 20 trains to be manufactured at the Alstom Lapa plant, in Brazil, which is one of Alstom’s competence centres for the production of stainless-steel trains.

The first train set will arrive in South Africa in the fourth quarter of 2015.

In addition to supplying the rolling stock, Gibela will provide technical support to Prasa, as well as spare parts over an 18-year period.

“Thanks to this contract, over 3000 new Metrorail coaches specifically designed for South Africa will soon replace the old-generation [coaches], with high standards of safety, reliability and comfort,” says Prasa CEO Lucky Montana.
“This will substantially change the quality of passenger service, [improving] the daily journeys of more than two-million South African people.”

“We are excited about reaching this significant milestone, paving the way to start with our industrialisation efforts as required by this contract, which is part of a broader strategy to localise and to reinvigorate the railway sector in South Africa,” adds Gibela CEO Marc Granger.

“To date, we have signed letters of intent with 35 suppliers for a wide range of components and raw material to be sourced from South Africa.”
 

Gibela will supply Prasa with the X’Trapolis Mega, the new X’Trapolis-type train developed by Alstom to fit South Africa’s 1.067 m gauge.

The X’Trapolis Mega can travel at speeds of up to 120 km/h, and can be upgraded to reach 160 km/h.

Each single-deck train is composed of six cars and is able to carry more than 1 300 passengers.
The train is equipped with air conditioning, ergonomic seats, real-time on-board information and Wi-Fi Internet access.

As part of the Prasa contract, Gibela will build a R1-billion manufacturing site in Dunnottar, 10 km north of the town of Nigel, to produce the 580 trains, which will be manufactured in South Africa.

The 600 000 m2 manufacturing facility is also designed to house an engineering centre and training facility.

“South Africa has always had its own rail industry capacity, but because of almost 35 years of underinvestment in the rail system, the engineering and design capability, as well as the capacity to integrate, have been lost,” notes Montana.

“As we embarked on this programme, we wanted a technology partner; we wanted the trains to be built here and we wanted South African engineering firms as part of the global supply chain in the rail sector. It is very important for us that we have this factory established here.”

Prasa and Gibela promise that the project will create more than 33 000 direct and indirect jobs over ten years, achieving local content of more than 65% on the rolling stock.
 

Gibela will train an estimated 19 000 people, including artisans, technicians, train drivers, over the life of the project.
The Gibela deal forms part of Prasa’s bigger rolling stock programme, which aimed to procure 7 224 new coaches at the projected cost of R123-billion over 20 years.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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