South Africa gets new high-powered trains

16 January 2015

When a new batch of diesel locomotives was unloaded off the ship at the Cape Town harbour on 14 January, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters walked towards the Afro4002 loco and kissed it.

She said the delivery of the locos was an exciting moment for the government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) because they would go a long way in reducing travel time, providing comfort and reliability, and improving efficiency.

The arrival of the four locomotives follows the unveiling of the first one – the Afro4001 diesel locomotive – at the Cape Town Station in December. “We are happy that when we said 2015, the first trains would be landing in South Africa in January 2015, there is the delivery of the train. We are very excited,” Peters said.

“At different times this year, trains will be delivered. One of the key things the government is focusing on, between 2014 and 2019, is to improve public transport, in particular our drive to move people from road to rail. This is part of the initiative because in that way, we will be able to deal with the carnage on the roads. We will be able to reduce the number of people who actually die.”

She was accompanied by the chairperson of the Prasa board, Popo Molefe, and the agency’s group chief executive, Lucky Montana. Prasa is a state-owned enterprise responsible for most passenger rail services in South Africa.

The new locomotives are expected to contribute to the rail operator’s plan to modernise South Africa’s rail infrastructure, including rolling stock, signal upgrade, infrastructure rehabilitation, station modernisation and new locomotives for long distance passenger services.

All in all, 70 high-tech locomotives are expected to be delivered over the next few months, comprising 50 Euro Dual electro-diesel and 20 Euro 4000 diesel locomotives. As they arrive, Prasa will test them on the track until March; thereafter, the locos will start operating from April this year.

Peters said the Afro4001 diesel locomotive had already been tested. On one test-run, it pulled up to 50 coaches over a notable distance. These types of locomotives brought modernisation as well as faster delivery.

“We. want to also improve the ability of people to move faster on rail because people are saying I don’t want to spend hours on end on the train,” she said.

The locomotives are highly powered and are designed for multipurpose use. They can pull freight and passenger coaches. The trains will run along six long-distance corridors, including the Johannesburg to Cape Town route. As soon as Prasa receives new stock during the first half of the year, this will be increased to 10 corridors.

Peters said the government was investing R172.3-billion in the next 10 years to fast track the modernisation of rail and move public passenger transport to rail; of this, R3.5-billion had been used to manufacture 70 locomotives. About R51-billion would go towards the manufacturing of 600 new trains for Metrorail, which operates commuter rail in urban areas.

Molefe said the 70 locomotives were being manufactured in Spain. Prasa would receive the first 20 of these within the next six months. “Over time we have had to deal with high levels of frustrations from our people, who use our trains, because of slow journey times and overcrowding, resulting in the passengers losing faith in rail as a mode of choice.

“What we see today will immediately see the reduction of travel time on our long- distance passenger rail services as part of our commitment to providing high-quality passenger services,” he said.

Source: SANews