First glimpse of the Gautrain

The Gautrain on the test track at
Bombardier’s manufacturing facility
in Derby, UK. (Image: Gautrain)

A Gautrain coach on the assembly line.
(Image: Gautrain)

Janine Erasmus

The first Gautrain cars have been presented at the Bombardier Transportation production facility in Derby, UK. Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa was at the launch in July 2008 to accept the first set of four cars. Each set will have the carrying capacity of 321 seated and 138 standing passengers, and with 24 trains of four cars each on order, the Gautrain will be able to transport more than 100 000 passengers per day in each direction.

“With uncompromising levels of safety, security, comfort and punctuality, passengers can look forward to unprecedented standards of service,” said Shilowa.

Bombardier Transportation, a subsidiary of Canada-based Bombardier Inc. which manufactures the Learjet range, has been contracted by the Gauteng provincial government to design the core electrical and mechanical systems for the much talked-about rapid rail system that will carry passengers between Johannesburg and Pretoria in 40 minutes. Bombardier’s responsibilities will include communications, automatic fare collection, and power supply and distribution systems.

The company, a specialist in rail transport systems with over 100 000 vehicles in operation worldwide, will also build 96 Electrostar cars and provide training as well as 15 years of maintenance services. The last car is due for delivery in June 2010.

Bombardier’s award-winning Electrostar design is known for its reliability, cutting-edge technology and energy efficiency. The shells are manufactured from aluminium, making them lightweight and cheaper to maintain. The cars on the airport route will undergo special customisation to allow for more luxurious seats and dedicated storage areas for luggage.

Bombardier Transportation is part of the Bombela consortium, which is responsible for the financing, design and construction, and operation and maintenance of the 80km-long Gautrain route. Other members of the consortium are French civil contractor Bouygues, South African civil contractor Murray and Roberts and empowerment partner Strategic Partners Group.

Empowering the province

Only 15 cars will be completed at the Derby Bombardier facility. Although Bombardier will still manufacture body shells for the remaining 81 cars, these will be shipped to Union Carriage and Wagon in Nigel, Gauteng, to be completed there. A number of teams from Union Carriage are currently in Derby to receive training in the final assembly of the cars.

Bombardier has audited the Union Carriage factory and will invest, at its own cost, a substantial sum to upgrade the facility to meet the requirements for Gautrain rolling stock assembly.

“Not only will skills be transferred to our local people, but more jobs will be created in our commitment to the socio-economic development of the Gauteng province,” said Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency.

“The local recruitment and training of drivers will also take place in Derby as Electrostar driver compartments and control systems are more advanced than other trains presently running in South Africa.”

Van der Merwe added that the Gautrain Management Agency was “seriously considering enlarging the order”.

“We are proud to be part of the South African government’s commitment to build a modern and effective rail network,” said Bombardier president André Navarri, “and are confident that its new fleet will facilitate the easy movement of people and goods throughout the region.”

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