1 November 2010
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa has named Siemens SA as the preferred bidder to install a R961-million state-of-the-art signaling and communication system on the country’s commuter rail network from January 2011.
Making the announcement last week, Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) chief executive Lucky Montana said the current signaling system could no longer be considered sufficiently safe or reliable.
“Approximately 80% of the signaling installations have become obsolete, and the remainder not able to fully support modern and safe railway operations.”
Montana said the first phase of installation was expected to commence in January 2011, along with the construction of a new central Train Control Nerve Centre for Gauteng province.
“This massive investment is in line with Prasa’s critical priorities over the next three to five years of upgrading the existing passenger railway system and championing the adoption of new railway technology best practices.”
Meeting future demands
Prasa’s focus was currently on capacity expansion to meet future demand, including modernising its signaling and communications systems and upgrading its rolling stock and train operating systems, Montana said.
The current railway signaling system consists of a mixture of technologies from the 1930s to the 1980s. Upgrading the system will see manual changing of signals being replaced by automated signal changes.
The new signaling system, along with the Train Control Nerve Centre, will enhance operational capacity and allow greater flexibility and improved safety, reducing train delays and cutting down on room for error in the operation of the country’s commuter trains.
The signaling upgrade will also pave the way for the introduction of new, modern rolling stock.
High-volume priority corridors
Prasa will prioritise the introduction of the new signaling system in its high-volume corridors, including Naledi in Soweto; Pretoria to Johannesburg; Mabopane to Pretoria; Mamelodi to Pretoria; KwaMashu to Durban to Umlazi; Khayelitsha to MitchellsPlain to Phillipi to Cape Town; Kraaifontein to Bellville to Cape Town; and Simonstown to Cape Town.
According to Montana, Prasa had initially set aside R1.9-billion for the upgrade, but Siemens had presented an attractive solution at a cost of R961-million, which was accepted.
Prasa is still negotiating with Siemens South Africa on the finer details of the tender, with a view to finalising negotiations by late December.
Once an agreement is reached, a formal contract will be signed. If the two parties fail to reach an agreement, Prasa will commence negotiations with the reserve bidder, Actom.