The growing population in Africa, coupled with the rise of urbanisation, will require additional transport capacity, and rail has a significant role to play in this, said Products Projects Consulting for Trains MD Wolfram Schwab.
He was speaking during rolling stock manufacturing and servicing company TMH Africa’s ‘Transport Month’ webinar, held on October 28.
He said countries should invest in railways as part of a long-term strategy, with political decisions underpinning this, as rail offers a physical advantage for fulfilling mass transport needs.
Schwab acclaimed that, in terms of efficiency, speed, travel distance and capacity, railways have always presented a competitive option with multiple transportation applications.
As a system, he noted, rail is highly efficient compared with other forms of transportation.
From an infrastructure perspective, railways connect strategic cities, regions and ports.
Schwab emphasised the importance of services within the industry, with infrastructure, signalling and rolling stock dependent on each other and always needing to be kept in good condition.
Moreover, he mentioned the element of the digital value chain for rail, whereby digital tools and data, cybersecurity, safety and predictability would support rail as a system.
Citing examples from European countries, Schwab noted that investment in rail presents a sustainable and economical solution. Moreover, he noted that rail enables digitalisation and shared mobility.
He emphasised that, with Africa currently experiencing an economic recovery with strong growth projections over the next two to three decades, rail offers an efficient, environment-friendly option as part of countries’ transport solutions.
AFRICAN CASE STUDY
TMH Africa CEO Jerome Boyet, meanwhile, shared a successful case study of the group, that of TMH International supplying 1 300 passenger coaches to the Egyptian National Railways (ENR).
He enthused that this was the largest ever rolling stock order in the country to increase ENR’s capacity by up to 30%.
This entailed supplying five different types of coaches. Boyet indicated that coaches fully comply with safety regulations.
TMH is in discussion with ENR on service provisions for the full lifetime period.
Earlier this month, TMH also signed a three-year contract to supply bogies for passenger rail applications in Egypt.
This was signed during the Covid-19 lockdown period, which Boyet says showcases the company’s resilience despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic.
Moreover, he notes that this is a positive contribution to inter-African trade relationships.
Also, it proves TMH Africa’s exportable skills and capacity in the manufacture of rolling stock.
The fulfilment of the bogie contract will incorporate a transfer of technology from within the TMH group’s portfolio between Russia to South Africa.
Boyet says this will showcase TMH Africa’s ability to deliver European technology standards in Africa, and export this globally, competitively.
Boyet notes that the company aims to supply the bogies by the end of 2021.
TMH Africa has achieved another rail industry certification, with the EN 15085-2 Certification Level CL1.
The certification demonstrates TMH Africa’s competence in the control of welding quality in the production of railway vehicles and components in accordance with European standards outlined as the EN 15085 standard.
Boyet says TMH is committed to leveraging the skills set that already exists in South Africa. The company has a 64 000 m2 facility in Boksburg, Johannesburg, with over 200 employees.
He noted that the company aims to showcase the country’s potential as a manufacturing hub through its work at the factory.