PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started

Thousands of new coaches to be built for a start…..

Delivery of the first of new rail car rolling stock will start arriving in South Africa during the beginning of 2015 with a factory being built in South Africa to complete the balance of 3,600 new coaches, all being part of a R51bn passenger coach contract recently concluded  by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) with Gibela Rail Transportation.

CEO of PRASA, Lucky Montana, told the parliamentary committee on transport two weeks ago that the entire the current fleet would be replaced in the course of time and all trains, both commuter and long distance, would boast high level security, bigger seats, a new shape and better communication and technology.    A statement was issued in early December confirming that the tender had been won by Gibela.

Worldwide tender process instigated

Minister Sibusiso Ndebele instigated the tender system for new rolling stock in mid-April this year “inviting manufacturers from all over the world to participate in the procurement process” and during the launch indicated a target of 65% localisation target as part of the bid conditions for the new rolling stock.

He said then that “PRASA must ensure the manufacture of an estimated 7,224 Metrorail coaches nationally to meet the passenger demand over the next 20 years as well as the upgrading and the construction of new rail infrastructure such as depots facilities and signalling.”    Investment projects at key national high-passenger demand corridors in KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng were critical he said.

Hand in hand with necessary infrastructure

In addition, PRASA is currently implementing a series of such as the construction of a rail link for the Bridge City development north of Durban as well as the Greenview doubling project east of Tshwane “which will address the archaic single rail design and cater for the increased demands for a more efficient service in this area”.

Over 50 station upgrades, the building of new stations and developing “intermodal hubs” are underway in conjunction with local and provincial governments.  Montana said at the time,  “We have chosen strategic high-passenger corridors as our key upgrade corridors where the demand for our service is quite high with an average 30,000 to 60,000 passengers at peak hours”.

As far as the new contract is concerned, Montana said this week, “It was a mistake for South Africa to not invest in railway for the past 33 years. We are paying the price for that lack of investment.” About 90% of current passenger coach rolling stock was purchased in the 1950s, with the last purchase made in 1986, he said.

State of art travel

 “The new coaches will have air-conditioning  and will have CCTVs for security plus on-board communication”, he said, adding that automatic doors would be included on the short-haul coaches that the long distance trains would have WiFi installed, plus modern toilet facilities.

“We are not looking at increasing fares in the next five years on a massive scale; there will be adjustments to meet inflation, but we are saying that the current workers can’t bear the burden for the upgrade.”

À la Française

PRASA has now invested R123bn to the upgrade its portfolio over a period of 20 years and production of the trains are set to start in 2014. It was in November that PRASA announced that it had accepted a tender from French company Alstom for the programme, Gibela now being announced as the name of the consortium formed as a result.  Canadian, Spanish and Chinese companies also bid.

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