French multinational rail transport company Alstom, which has a controlling stake in local rail transport consortium Gibela, has reinforced its commitment to ensuring local content forms a significant portion of the multibillion-rand contract signed between Gibela and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
The contract, which will see 580 new passenger trains being built at Gibela’s Dunnottar facility, in Ekurhuleni, is part of a new rolling stock programme, which will allow 200 local suppliers to manufacture equipment and components for the locally produced trains from 2018 onwards. Gibela notes that the Dunnottar facility will deliver five completed trains to PRASA each month for ten years from the first roll-out at the end of 2018.
The public transport modernisation programme, which will continue for the next 10 to 15 years, will allow PRASA to continue running current trains while gradually replacing them as the modernisation programme progresses to cover different areas. This will also allow PRASA to continue refurbishing its current trains while improving operational efficiencies.
Gibela CEO Marc Granger notes that this will allow local manufacturing companies to contribute to the creation of a new-generation fleet of fully operational trains.
“By producing quality components such as these, local suppliers will – in addition to being able to service Gibela and the South African rail sector as a whole – be able to compete in the global market, opening up real potential for significant exports and resultant foreign exchange earnings for South Africa. The country is starting to make substantial progress in rejuvenating our local rail manufacturing industry’s capabilities and capacity,” he states.
Granger adds that the 20 trains of the 600-strong fleet that are being built in Brazil, will also use South African-made components that are being shipped to Brazil. He adds that, for each train being built in Brazil, 22% of procurement spend is on components sourced from South African suppliers, which includes a large percentage on interiors and sheet metal work domains.
“Although there are no contractual obligations for local content on the Brazilian-built trains, Gibela took a strategic decision to get a head start to ensure that local suppliers are well prepared, especially in terms of technical capability, capacity and investment, for an intensive manufacturing programme, which adheres to stringent standards of quality and tight delivery schedules.”
Granger adds that local companies such as Cape Town-based medium-sized company LED Lighting SA and multinational original-equipment manufacturer, supplier and engineering firm Siyahamba Engineering have contributed to the Brazilian-built trains.
Siyahamba Engineering will supply cabin doors and partition walls for the new trains. Siyahamba CEO Julius Motshopi notes that Gibela brought in a specialist from the UK to work with the company to help industrialise and organise operations before the manufacturing process starts.
“We have gone through a steep learning curve and developed a good working relationship in the process,” he adds.
According to LED Lighting SA CEO Andrew Glenday, the company will supply the world’s first set of exterior LED lights to comply with international rail standards.
“There’s a buzz in South Africa around rail and I believe that well-structured investment in our local rail business will be repaid many times over through export, employment, skills development and even, intangibly, in national pride,” Glenday avers.
The material and components to be used for the trains manufactured in Lapa, Brazil, include stainless steel and carbon steel, passenger and cabin doors, ceiling and air ducts, cables, batteries and passenger seats.
Currently, a mock-up of PRASA’s new trains is on display at Pretoria Station for public viewing as an example of a single coach and the train’s new features. These features include closed-circuit television cameras, on-board communications between the driver and the commuters, emergency communications for disabled passengers and air conditioning.