South Africa calls for passenger rail bids

20 April 2012

The South African government has formally invited local and international manufacturers to submit bids to build 7 224 commuter rail coaches worth an estimated R123-billion, as the country pushes for a complete overhaul of its passenger rail service.

The 20-year fleet renewal programme of the state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is expected to create around 65 000 jobs as a new generation of South African railway artisans and engineers come to the fore.

Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg on Thursday, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said these would be modern trains “defined by greater passenger mobility, automatic train protection and a high quality of crashworthiness … carrying capacity is high, they are energy-efficient and very light, largely based on aluminum rather than heavy steel.”

Comprehensive passenger rail programme

The investment would, over time, achieve significant economic benefits for the country as well as the benefits of an efficient transport system, while serving as the catalyst for a comprehensive passenger rail programme over the next 30 years.

Over the next decade, the government would be implementing “a number of rail interventions aimed at making rail the backbone of our passenger transport system”.

The revitalisation of passenger rail travel in the country will run parallel with a massive push to shift the transport of freight in the country from road to rail.

Earlier this month, state company Transnet announced details of a R300-billion investment in infrastructure aimed at creating over half-a-million new jobs while making its freight rail division the fifth-largest in the world.

Both programmes are in line with South Africa’s new multi-billion rand infrastructure drive, announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address in February.

65% localisation target

Piet Sebola, head of Prasa’s rolling stock acquisition, told Business Day on Thursday that the fleet renewal programme came with a 65% localisation target, requiring manufacturers to invest in production and skills transfer in South Africa and to establish a manufacturing base in the country by at least 2016.

In addition, Prasa will be spending around R15.5-billion on new rail signaling and train depots.

According to Business Day, Prasa has also begun work on a parallel, three-year, R25.9-billion investment in high-density commuter stations.

Prasa is the operator of commuter rail service Metrorail.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews