A mega footprint on South Africa's rail industrialisation

President of South Africa opens Gibela’s train manufacturing plant in Ekurhuleni – the first in Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa: 25 October 2018. Gibela, the Alstom-led BEE train manufacturing joint venture, today hosted the President of South Africa, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa for the official opening of its flagship train manufacturing plant in Ekurhuleni, the first of its kind on the continent. This is the site where 580 modern commuter trains will be built – by South Africans for South Africa.

The official opening of the factory falls within Transport Month. Themed 'Transforming and Modernising Public Transport in Gauteng', Transport Month seeks to create awareness about transport as an enabler for economic growth.

Gibela’s 53 000m2 green field plant, spread over a 78ha site, was built at a cost of

R1 billion within the scheduled 22-month construction period. Its manufacturing workshops, covering 33 000m2 square metres, are designed in a modular format to facilitate a lean manufacturing process.

At peak production, two cars a day, one and a half trains a week and 62 trains a year will be produced. The Gibela manufacturing team is gearing up to achieve maximum manufacturing capacity – never before achieved – by the end of 2020.

Gibela CEO Thierry Darthout explains: “The plant provides South Africa with its own capacity to manufacture modern trains. This will have a massive, positive impact not only on South Africa’s commuting public, but also on the country’s economy”.

The world-class plant features the latest innovations, making for an advanced manufacturing process involving 250 linked industrial activities and the assembly of at least 10 000 parts.

Some 19 new process innovations are in place:

  • A standout example is the drawbench, a machine used to shape 5mm stainless steel metal. The most modern of its kind currently available in the global rail market, it can pull 22m long side sill profiles – a length unique to the rail manufacturing industry – and fabricate roof corrugations and various stiffeners for the train. As the parts it produces are safety-critical, 100% accuracy – all of the time – is essential.
  • Seven-axis robots have been installed to work in otherwise hard-to-reach welding places, improving efficiency.
  • Mechanical and electrical rotating fixtures are in place for improved ergonomics and increased speed.
  • A scissor lift table replaces overhead cranes, eliminating safety risks during installation while increasing efficiency and accuracy.

The plant has a bespoke, 4 700m2 training centre, critical for the transfer of new rail-related skills to Gibela’s employees, the employees of first- and second-tier suppliers and eventually the whole of the railway sector. A 1.2km test track for the dynamic testing of the new trains and an office complex finish off this impressive, modern train production hub.

From the start of construction, the plant has delivered benefits in terms of providing employment and new skills for people from nearby communities. The total construction spend was with South African companies, 30% of them black women-owned.

Of the plant’s official opening, Thierry said: “It was an honour to have President Cyril Ramaphosa officiate. We are immensely proud of what we have achieved, and we commit to delivering trains to PRASA that will both improve the lives of South Africans and provide a valuable platform for South Africa’s industrial rebirth”.

The first proudly South African train, built by a South African workforce for South African commuters, will roll off the test track at the new Dunnottar plant by the end of 2018.

For more information please contact::

On behalf of Gibela:
Pamella Radebe                      Email: pamella.radebe@gibela-rail.com  
Office tel:                                +27 10 600 0651

R & A Strategic Communications:
James Duncan                         Email: james@rasc.co.za
Pam McLeod                           Email: pam@rasc.co.za
Office tel:                                +27 11 880 3924           


  • Gibela currently employs 788 people the majority of whom are artisans, technicians and engineers. 229 of these employees have received intensive offshore training at Alstom’s centres of manufacturing excellence in Europe, South America, Asia and Australia to learn the latest in train manufacturing and maintenance technology. At full ramp up, the plant will employ 1500 employees.
  • As a critical catalyst in the rejuvenation of the local railway manufacturing industry, Gibela is cognisant that much of its economic impact will occur through the supply chain. The company currently relies on 118 suppliers to supply critical components for its trains. For each trainset built, Gibela will spend 80% of the train’s procurement value suppliers (currently 71).
  • With a 65% local content contractual commitment, Gibela is heavily invested in sourcing components from local companies. However, over the past few decades there was no investment in the railway industry resulting in the loss of capacity and expertise. This is where the Gibela supplier development programme comes in to plug these gaps and bolster the skills of budding South African suppliers. So far, thousands of hours of offshore industrial expertise has been spent on developing local suppliers.
  • The company’s impact extends beyond the boundaries of its factory, most immediately to its nearby communities. Gibela’s community initiatives focus on education – from early childhood development to providing maths and science classes to over 500 pupils from local schools. To build skills across South Africa, Gibela has awarded 650 bursaries to the value of R48 million and hosted 300 students at its Railway Introduction Course to give them exposure to the rail industry.

About Gibela:

Gibela was formed as a joint venture to replace South Africa's outdated rolling stock and will deliver 600 state-of-the art passenger trains into the South African rail network over the next 10 years. Fully empowered, Gibela is conscious of its role as a catalyst for economic development and the creation of new skills through its majority shareholder, Alstom. In a contract signed in 2013, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) assigned Gibela the task of replacing its rolling stock with new trains.

Gibela is headquartered in Johannesburg, while its manufacturing and training facility is located in Dunnottar, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. Through the rolling stock project, Gibela will generate 1 500 direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs through the supply chain over a 10-year period. Thousands of people – engineers, artisans, technicians, train drivers and technologists – will benefit from training and upskilling.

GIBELA 2017. 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.