Rolling stock companies invited to bid

Apr 19 2012 15:09

Johannesburg - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele on Thursday unveiled a R173bn bidding process for Metrorail's stock fleet renewal programme.

In total, 7 224 metro coaches will be commissioned by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), which owns Metrorail.

"These are modern trains that will be built in South Africa with the aim of revitalising the rail engineering industry in our country, promoting local manufacturing, creating an estimated 65 000 jobs and developing a new generation of railway workers in the form of engineers and artisans," Ndebele said, according to a copy of his speech.

The rolling stock programme will continue for the next 20 years.

It will catalyse a comprehensive passenger rail programme. With local manufacturing and content at 65%, this programme is expected to create 66 000 direct and indirect jobs. From 2015, the first elements of a modern commuter train system are to be put in place.

This will be achieved through the acquisition of new rolling stock, as well as a modernisation programme valued at R25.9bn in direct infrastructure investments. Both passenger and freight rail will be recapitalised.

Most coaches currently in use were built in the 1960s and 1970s, he said, with 1950s technology still in use.

Ndebele promised that the new, modern trains would be similar to those used by Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Portugal. They are energy efficient, have a high carrying capacity and are much lighter, as they are made from aluminium rather than steel.

"Prasa's key objective is to promote rail as the preferred mode of transport for the majority of our people."

Metrorail continues to be one of the most affordable public transport modes available.

"Our transport goal is about promoting public transport over private car use."

Ndebele has followed the debate around toll roads in Gauteng, and said sustainable transport solutions have to be found. Private cars are no longer sustainable for South Africa.

People in Tshwane, Midrand or northern Johannesburg could use the Gautrain between Pretoria, Sandton, and the airport. In addition, seven Metrorail Business Express trains are available every working day.

Four of these journey from Pretoria to Johannesburg, taking an hour and costing R1 057 a month.

Another three trains run between Soweto and Johannesburg, taking 40 minutes, at a cost of R413 a month.

"This must be compared with the operating cost of a private vehicle of almost R1 800 a month, plus the almost 1.5 hours of travel time on some of the untolled roads within Gauteng."

He has instructed Prasa to improve the Business Express offering, so that services would be available every 30 minutes in peak hours.

"The improvements on the Ben Schoeman Highway, as a direct result of the Gauteng freeway improvement project, has made it possible to travel and connect between Pretoria and Johannesburg within an hour."

Roads which are not tolled have higher travel times and traffic congestion.

The government has a duty to invest public funds in favour of the majority who do not have cars, he said.

Ndebele also wants travel times halved within the next five years in key inter-city rail corridors, such as Pretoria-Polokwane-Musina and Johannesburg-Durban. Trains should move at 160 km/h on these corridors, he said.

High speed trains should also link South Africa with other cities in the region, and in Africa as a whole.

Prasa said in a statement that it has begun a parallel investment process within its services.

It is investing in a new rail signalling project in Gauteng worth R1bn as well a new central train control centre. It has also awarded two additional tenders for rail signalling in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

A series of projects to enhance capacity are under way. These include constructing a rail link for the Bridge City development north of Durban. Stations are being improved and upgraded and new ones being built.

"As Prasa we have already started preparing for the new trains, not only to complement government's contribution, but to also improve our stations and customer experience as a whole," CEO Lucky Montana said.

Prasa has set aside R25.9bn of its own money over the next three years to invest in infrastructure development at station level, he said.

sibusiso ndebele  |  metrorail  |  prasa



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