Transport on track

Ekurhuleni powers SA into the future


The future of South Africa’s railways is currently under construction in Ekurhuleni, where Gibela is building the X’trapolis Mega commuter train at its new train manufacturing complex at Dunnottar.

The first train was dispatched to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) last year, arriving at Prasa’s Wolmerton depot north of Pretoria in December.

Production commenced in September 2017, said then Gibela CEO Thierry Darthout, as quoted by Engineering News:

“This train has been built while finishing construction of one of the largest manufacturing plants in the world.

“Coordinating multiple processes and reaching these major milestones at the same time is an achievement in and of itself,” he noted.

“Seeing off this modern train, the first in a generation, I am reminded that every hour devoted by Gibela’s dynamic and aspirational team has been worth it. This train is for them—and for their fellow South Africans.

“We are hugely indebted to our majority shareholder, Alstom, for the invaluable support they have given us in the transfer of technology programme that enabled today’s feat, and also for their continued support of our operational endeavours.”

In April, it was Cape Town’s turn to be introduced to the new trains at a PRASA event presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said, “This programme aims to revitalise the rail industry through local manufacturing of parts, maintenance, the establishment of training facilities, the achievement of 65 percent local content, and training and skills development for PRASA employees and young people interested in the rail industry.”

Currently, some 800 people are building the trains, with components provided by some 100 local suppliers. At full production, 1 500 people will be employed to turn out 62 trains a year, or 580 trains in the next ten years—a production rate unequalled anywhere in the world. No wonder that President Cyril Ramaphosa described Ekurhuleni as South Africa’s dynamo of development:

“Ekurhuleni is proving to be the real engine of economic growth. This factory is not only about building trains, but advancing the industrialisation of our economy," the President Cyril Ramaphosa told guests at the official launch last year. The multi-billion rand state-of-the-art plant is expected to serve as a catalyst of transformation for passenger rail.

“We will rely on passenger rail to carry millions of South Africans. Our trains transport 2.5 million people every day and [this] will rise to five million people every day. Therefore a facility like this is important," Ramaphosa said.

“Therefore it is essential to ensure passenger rail service is safe and affordable," he added.

Meanwhile, Port Elizabeth’s economy is set for a major boost with the construction and development of one of PRASA’s biggest projects, the Motherwell Passenger Rail project (MPRC). PRASA undertook the basic planning of the MPRC in 2000 but subsequent developments in land use and rail technology necessitated a project update, which was carried out by meant that the planning GIBB, who PRASA subsequently appointed to design and construct the proposed MPRC and stations.

A GIBB statement reveals that the project infrastructure comprises 14.7km of ballasted railway track, including a 7.14km double line, 5 rail cross-overs, 13 turnout sets, and 2.3km of concrete railway track structure, together with the bulk earth works and railway design layer works that go with it.

Also incorporated in the project are ten bridge structures and three railway station buildings, including mechanical and electrical services, precincts, intermodal facilities and retail facilities. There will also be a service road along the railway alignment and a 3m high boundary wall to prevent people from crossing the lines.

The intention is for the railway station design to facilitate integration between the train services and other transport services—a PRASA initiative to support Nelson Mandela Bay Muncipality’s IPTN (Integrated Public Transport Network).

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