Transnet Freight Rail on Thursday formally accepted the first of 460 TRAXX Class 23 E locomotives at the Transnet Engineering head office, in Durban.
To date, 15 locomotives are in the final stages of dynamic acceptance testing and are expected to start work in the new year. A further eight are already in production.
Production will ramp up next year with all 240 locomotives expected to be delivered by the end of 2019.
This is the result of a contract signed in 2014 between Canadian train manufacturer Bombardier and Transnet as part of the parastatal’s Market Demand Strategy (MDS). The MDS aims to renew the fleet, decreasing the average age of locomotives from 44 to 25 years, noted Transnet Engineering CEO Thamsanqa Jiyane.
He said that, out of the four contracts concluded with four original-equipment manufacturers for the manufacture of 1 064 locomotives, Bombardier was the only one to prototype a locomotive that had been specially designed for this country.
Bombardier Transportation South Africa CEO Aubrey Lekwane said that the project was characterised by partnership and localisation.
“Each and every TRAXX Africa Locomotive is manufactured in South Africa, by South Africans, for this country, with sites across the country making a contribution. Bombardier’s factory in Isando produces our leading-edge Mitrac high-power propulsion equipment, the car bodies are produced by DCD in Boksburg, and the bogies are produced by Transnet Engineering here in Durban, which is also where final assembly, commissioning and static testing of the locomotives takes place,” he said.
Lekwane noted that Bombardier was committed to South Africa through local production and a strong supply chain, as well as through job creation and technology transfer. Over 60% of around R8-billion of the total contract value of R13-billion would be spent on locally manufactured materials, components and services.
He noted that, since the contract was awarded in 2014, Bombardier, in partnership with its local supply chain, had created just over 500 jobs with over 300 people working directly for Bombardier South Africa. Of these, 140 are directly involved in production of the locomotives. This would ramp up to 167 during peak production.
Bombardier is working with 220 local suppliers, of which 23 are black-owned small, medium-sized and microenterprises and 12 are small development enterprises.
Lekwane pointed out that the TRAXX concept brought a global success story to South Africa. Over 2 000 TRAXX locomotives have been ordered in Europe and a further 1 750 are in operation, transporting both freight and passengers.
“The TRAXX 3 generation, launched this year, is the most modern loco platform worldwide. But TRAXX is also about flexibility. [This] locomotive … is a joint design by BT and Transnet Freight Rail through a close concept and design process, allowing genuine two-way knowledge transfer,” Lekwane said.
Specifically designed for the South African track gauge, railways standard and climate, the new 23 E can reach speeds of 100 km/h. It has a separate blower for every traction motor, increasing cooling, power and overall reliability.
The Wired Train Bus communication allows for up to eight locomotives to work together for heavier loads and the train is ready to operate with radio distributed power, a wireless communication system that enables the operation of long trains, with locomotives distributed along each train.
Bombardier’s MyBT fleet software transmits real-time data about the locomotive, improving maintainability; high-value components have been moved from the roof to the side of the locomotive, increasing reliability and reducing the chance of damage. The locomotive has a particularly robust underframe that includes anti-climber, a safety device which limits impact in the event of a crash or derailment.
Jiyane said that the relationship between Transnet and Bombardier would now move beyond a partnership and would allow both companies to create a predictable, on-time railway service for both South Africa and the rest of Africa.