A new paradigm for South African commuter rail transport

The first X’Trapolis MEGA train, built in Brazil, ready for tests in South Africa

The first of a batch of 20 X’Trapolis MEGA (metric gauge) commuter trains for the PRASA rolling stock project has arrived in South Africa from Brazil on schedule. This train is designed and manufactured by Alstom, the majority shareholder in the Gibela Rail Transport Consortium which was awarded the order for 600 commuter trains in October 2013.

“This is a significant milestone for Gibela and an historic moment for South Africa. The X’Trapolis MEGA is designed and fitted especially for South Africa’s Cape Gauge rail infrastructure. Over the next few months, the train will undergo a rigorous testing programme specifically focused on safety and performance.” says Gibela CEO Marc Granger.

The design of the X’Trapolis MEGA is inspired by the multi-faceted nature of South African society. The train has a lightweight, stainless steel structure and an up-to-date control propulsion system that allows it to consume significantly less energy than the current fleet. Nearly all its components are recyclable. Gibela’s commitment to local content objectives is demonstrable in these first 20 Brazilian-manufactured trains wherein South African suppliers contributed 20% of manufacturing input − expected to reach 70% once manufacturing of the balance of 580 trains in South Africa has reached a stable pace. Stainless steel makes up the local raw material on the trains and equipment supplied includes cables, seats, luggage racks, lighting, ceilings, cab doors, interiors, handrails, rear view mirrors, glazing and insulation components.

This train is one of two test trains that will be used to support PRASA in obtaining the “No Objection Certificate” from the Railway Safety Regulator which is required prior to the start of commercial service. “The balance of 580 trains will be manufactured over a 10 year period at a purpose-built facility here in South Africa, by hundreds of specially trained South Africans.” says Granger.

The test team consists of Alstom specialists from around the world as well as South African engineers and technician from Gibela who have been trained on the project from design stages in Europe to assembly and initial validation and testing in Brazil. They are now fully integrated in the engineering team of the project.

Following the static tests at the manufacturing site in Brazil (which included testing each train component and sub-system, testing each car individually and finally, the integrated train), the train was uncoupled and shipped as six individual cars. On South African soil, the train will be re-assembled and taken through the various tests including speeds up to 132 km/h, which is 10% higher than its specified operating speed. The test on this first train will be focusing on all safety aspects including braking and traction. The entire test period is expected to take approximately seven months.

The second train, also a test train, is due to arrive in South Africa in early 2016 and will feature six cars of which three, similarly to the first test train, will be devoid of interior linings and fittings while the other three cars, are fully fitted as a final product. Where the tests on the first train will mainly focus on safety features and dynamic performance, the emphasis on the second train will be on passenger comfort systems such as the air conditioners, heating, public address, passenger information displays and lighting.

“This very first train means so much more to us as a company than just the arrival of a new train. It marks the beginning of the next stage of Gibela’s journey. A journey that will see hundreds of South Africans acquiring new rail skills and new energy being injected in the local railway supply chain as part of concerted efforts to revitalise the rail industry. A journey that we are ready to embark upon with our customer, PRASA,” says Granger.

Meeting the regulatory requirements related to the site for the Gibela manufacturing facility at Dunnottar, Ekurhuleni (where 580 of the 600 trains will be built and tested) has taken up much of 2015 but the site was handed to Gibela by PRASA last week. Consequently, construction work is expected to get under way early in 2016.

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For more information please contact:
On behalf of Gibela:
Pamella Radebe+27 83 277 8766Email: pamella.radebe@gibela-rail.com
Office tel:+27 11 518 8232
Russell and Associates:
James Duncan
+27 79 336 4010
Email: james@rair.co.za
Pam McLeod
+27 82 872 6387
Email: pam@rair.co.za
Office tel:
+27 11 880 3924

GIBELA 2015. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is indicative only. No representation or warranty is given or should be relied on that it is complete or correct or will apply to any particular project. This will depend on the technical and commercial circumstances. It is provided without liability and is subject to change without notice. Reproduction, use or disclosure to third parties, without express written authority, is strictly prohibited.