Rail technology provider Bombardier Transportation (BT) is on target to hand over the first of 240 Bombardier Traxx Africa locomotives to State-owned freight utility Transnet during the fourth quarter of this year.
The first eight locomotives, which include BT’s high-power propulsion equipment, have been subjected to a series of dynamic tests which began in March and are scheduled for completion in October.
After the prototype phase has been completed – comprising the testing of the first eight locomotives – BT aims to ramp up production after the initial phase to 12 or more locomotives output a month so that the contract is complete by 2019.
“Localisation is a key objective of the Traxx Africa project and for Bombardier Transportation to fulfil this obligation, we have to closely manage the entire supply chain focusing on local content,” says Traxx South Africa project director Henk Ekkelenkamp.
He explains that BT has supported this objective by opening its own propulsion and controls manufacturing facility in Johannesburg in August last year. BT has also employed local staff to ensure knowledge transfer and capability enhancement.
“About 205 employees are working for BT South Africa. Of the 205, 101 of these employees are based at our propulsions and controls manufacturing facility, and the same number, 101 employees, is engaged in the production of the Traxx Africa project,” says Ekkelenkamp.
He enthuses that the Traxx Africa project will peak at about 167 employees in February next year, with the project expected to reach completion by the end of 2019.
These locomotives, Ekkelenkamp explains, were specifically designed to the established South African practice and construction gauge, which implies that no new track is required to be built and that the locomotives will be able to run on the existing tracks.
He further adds that there was extensive liaison between BT, Transnet Freight Rail and Transnet Engineering (TE) throughout the concept and detailed design process to allow for bidirectional knowledge transfer.
The locomotives are expected to reach up to 100 km/h and will have a service weight of about 129 t with an axle load of 22 t.
“The power capacity of the traction motors is closely linked to the cooling capacity, which is a vital point to consider for South African climates. The Traxx Africa locomotive has the advantage of a single blower for each of the six traction motors, which makes the cooling of the locomotive more controllable,” explains Ekkelenkamp.
He adds that the failure of one blower only affects a single motor and not a group of motors, which allows for more power and better availability, resulting in increased capacity of the fleet.
The locomotives will also include multiple traction with Wired Train Bus (WTB), a communication system linking rail vehicles through a wired connection, which enables operators to join up to eight locomotives together when having to pull heavy loads. “This system fully complies with international WTB standards and is compatible with other WTB compatible fleets,” he adds.
Bombardier’s MyBTfleet supervisory software transmits data (such as energy consumption, mileage measures, operation requirements, and status and emergency reporting) about the locomotive. This software will also be included and will, thereby, improve the maintenance of the locomotives.
The locomotives also have a robust underframe, which includes an anticlimber – a safety device which limits the impact during a possible crash or the derailment of locomotives and a new assistant display that provides better driver experience.
“A second display is also installed, thereby allowing the assistant driver or apprentice to see exactly what the driver sees, improving the training and learning of new drivers,” Ekkelenkamp enthuses.
Fewer high-value components will be located in the roof, as most of them have been moved to the side of the machine room on the interior of the locomotive, thereby increasing the reliability of the locomotives and reducing any possible risk of damage.
The locomotives will also include a wireless communication system, radio distributed power (RDP), which will allow for the operation of long trains with locomotives distributed along the train.
“RDP is using the hardware and software already available in the Transnet Freight Rail fleet. It is providing great flexibility for the train,” Ekkelenkamp notes.
Key subcontractors include TE, in partnership with BT, for the bogies and final assembly; mechanical engineer DCD Rolling Stock, for the carbodies’ manufacturing; engineering company Pamodzi Unique Engineering, for the supply of the pantographs; machining manufacturer IEC Holden, which is putting the drives together; and automation company ABB, for the supply of the main transformers.
“Each and every Traxx Africa locomotive is manufactured in South Africa for South Africa, with sites across the country contributing to this project. “We are committed to the South African transportation market and supply chain that will ensure a sustainable future for the nation’s industry,” Ekkelenkamp enthuses, noting that BT prioritises delivery on commitments, thereby ensuring localisation, high quality and reliability.