Locally built Gautrains on the way

28 July 2008

Gauteng’s East Rand is set to realise the benefits of the Gautrain, with 81 out of 96 of the high-speed train’s coaches to be assembled at the Union Carriage and Wagon plant in Nigel, to the east of Johannesburg.

UCW managing director Palello Lebaka said the company had invested some R15-million in their Nigel assembly plant to prepare it to work on coaches for the Gautrain.

“More than R5-million of that amount [was] invested in training,” he said in a statement from the Gauteng provincial government last week, adding that equipping the company’s personnel with the right skills was a priority.

Once fully operational, the plant will employ 85 people – 17 of whom who are currently being trained at Bombardier’s (the train manufacturer’s) facilities in Derby in the United Kingdom.

The group has been in the UK for about four months now, and are being trained in produce knowledge, competency assessments, transfer of technology training, and computer programming.

They are then expected to train the remaining 68 workers as part of skills and technology transfer that had been built into the Gautrain project contract.

Bombardier’s Derby assembly plant will send an additional 10 staff members to constitute the core of the assembly teams when the production commences in Nigel.

Already, a team of three people – the project manager, operations manager and the inventory control personnel – are based at the Nigel plant to see that it is in order.

Huge challenge

Lebaka boasts that they are ready for the huge challenge, with assembly of the coaches starting next month, on 12 August, adding that the team had done well to finish the plant a month ago.

“We are ready, we had to be on time,” he said, adding that they company was both proud and fortunate to be entrusted with the innovative and ground-breaking transport system – the first of its kind in the country.

UCW Gautrain project manager Paul Buckley said all 81 cars would be completed and ready for delivery on 24 February 2009.

“The Nigel facility is purpose designed and built for the manufacture, refurbishment and overhauling of all types of rolling stock,” he said.

Buckley said the plant boasted extensive facilities for static and dynamic testing, ensuring maximum reliability of rolling stock, irrespective of rail gauge, climatic conditions and operating requirements.

Boosting economic activity

Speaking at the recent handover of the first 15 trainsets for Gautrain at Derby in the United Kingdom, Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said: “It is my hope that as we do the rest of the work and assembly, we will boost the economic activity around Brakpan, Springs and Nigel, that will create much-needed jobs there”.

He said the government would link up all the small and medium enterprises in the region with some of the people currently working on the Gautrain, a move which could turn the region into a base for the rail industry as a whole.

“It’s not just the trains; signalling and driving are very important; we also need conductors and so forth. We need many South Africans to become artisans and become train drivers,” Shilowa said.

SAinfo reporter

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