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Siemens Mobility ensures improved passenger safety with PRASA Gauteng resignalling project

10th May 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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Railway technology company Siemens Mobility has successfully completed the Gauteng resignalling project, which it describes as the largest signalling project in South African history.

The project was carried out to enable the State-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to provide safer and more reliable railway services for commuters in the province.

The project included a PRASA pilot European Train Control System (ETCS) installation for seven of its stations to ensure the agency is ETCS Level 2-ready. This provides the flexibility to meet future network growth and better safety standards through digital-based interlocking.

Siemens Mobility replaced the obsolete relay-based signalling, some of which predated World War II, with a new system based on electronic interlocking technology – Siemens Computer-Aided Signaling S7 – which complies with Safety Integrity Level-4.

The new systems mean PRASA has a fully bidirectional system designed for 2.5-minute headways, with the ability to optimise timetable planning, with remote monitoring and fault-finding solutions for technicians.

The resignalling project was executed in two phases. The first phase, Gauteng 1 (G1), was awarded in April 2011 and involved the construction of a Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC) and the resignalling of 17 stations.

The second phase, Gauteng 2 (G2), was awarded in March 2014 and involved the construction of a new Central Train Control (CTC), in Germiston; the resignalling of an additional 72 stations; and track and overhead traction works to improve the flexibility of train operations.

At its peak, the Siemens Mobility team delivered signalling infrastructure to two stations a month, while managing a project schedule of more than 11 000 line items. Together, G1 and G2 catered for the consolidation of 33 decentralised CTC/signal cabins into the GNC in Kaalfontein, with eight satellite CTCs, which will be used for business continuity. 

“This shows we have the local skills and resources to deliver advanced signalling systems for South Africa . . . transforming rail travel for people in Gauteng, building South Africa‘s rail sector and contributing positively to communities in Gauteng and the wider economy,” Siemens Mobility South Africa CEO Kevin Pillay said.

PRASA personnel were fully trained to enable the migration and to effectively handle the new technology. This involved 32 202 hours of training to support train control officers transitioning from a desk and diagram system to a modern information technology-based work station.

On-the-job theoretical and practical training took place over 18 months, with more than 4 000 days' training provided to PRASA staff through training centres at Braamfontein and the GNC.

“The key highlight for me is really the long-anticipated consolidation of the stations we have into one operation. . . We come from an era of manual authorisation and obsolete technology that we had to battle to repair and maintain,” PRASA acting signal and telecommunications manager Athanacious Makgamatha said.

To maximise local content, Siemens Mobility established a supplier development programme, and set up a local assembly and manufacturing facility in Northriding, Johannesburg.

The company employed 15 subcontractors and worked closely with about 50 small, medium-sized and microenterprises, with about 20 of them benefiting directly from the enterprise and supplier development programmes.

Siemens Mobility was, therefore, able to employ many local people and companies along the route, with the support of councillors, PRASA liaison officers and contractors. These partners also supported stakeholder relations and community engagement, which were key because the project works passed through many communities along the lines.

Despite the impact of Covid-19, which hit at the height of project delivery and stopped work on site for about three months, and unprecedent theft from and vandalism to PRASA’s infrastructure, the PRASA and Siemens Mobility team reached critical milestones.

“The [new] system offers enhanced safety and operational efficiency to our commuters, and we've already seen this on the Mabopane line, achieving a 95% availability and reliability rate. Additionally, the system's security is improved through the reduction of copper, among other things,” Makgamatha said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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