Dunnottar, Ekurhuleni, South Africa. 19 November 2018. The first new commuter train to be built in South Africa in more than 40 years is undergoing final testing at Gibela’s new R1 billion train manufacturing plant at Dunnottar in Ekurhuleni, ahead of being handed over before the end of 2018 to the customer, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), for Metrorail.
A second, state-of-the-art X’trapolis Mega commuter train is nearing completion, with a minimum of six trains scheduled to be delivered to PRASA by the end of the first quarter of 2019.
“It is astounding that, in just five years, we have reached this important landmark in Gibela’s historic journey,” says CEO Thierry Darthout.
“Literally thousands of people, most of them South Africans, have been involved in scores of activities related to construction, sourcing, skills development and manufacturing to get us to this point, and now the tempo is set to increase dramatically in order for us to reach our production targets.”
At a briefing for local media at the 78ha Dunnottar site today, Darthout and senior members of the production team walked journalists through the eight stages of train production, starting with the cutting of key components from South African rolled stainless steel.
The plant, the only one in the whole of Africa, contains some R350 million worth of specialised equipment. This includes seven-axis welding robots, the first of their kind to be used in the rail industry globally. Some 10 000 parts come together through the application of 19 new process innovations and 250 linked industrial activities.
At full production, the Gibela plant will turn out two railway cars a day, 1.5 trains a week; 62 trains a year; and a total of 580 trains over the next 10 years. This amounts to the fastest train production rate in in the world.
The first SA-built Xtra’polis Mega cuts a dash in its smart blue, white and silver livery as it currently undergoes dynamic testing on Gibela’s 1.2km customised test track.
Its lightweight, stainless steel structure means it consumes less energy than standard trains. Capable of achieving a top speed of 120km/h, it has all of the latest safety features, including an anti-crash system.
Besides safety, comfort for up to 1 200 passengers in six cars, is a priority. The interior is spacious, with large windows for natural light and wide doors for easy access. Air-conditioning and CCTV come standard, and a monitoring system helps to ensure the train runs on time.
Some 65% of the value of each train is spent with local suppliers. Currently, there are 71 South African suppliers registered with Gibela for the supply of various goods and services, and a robust supplier development programme is in place to ensure this number grows.
A particular focus is the identification, development and awarding of more business to ‘local-local’ suppliers from Gibela’s gate communities of Duduza, Tsakane, Kwa Thema, Alra Park and Mackenzieville. A Local Business Orientation Day held earlier this year was attended by more than 300 aspiring ‘local-local’ suppliers.
Since the start of production in mid-2017, Gibela’s employee headcount has risen to 800, 355 (or 44%) of whom are black women. Most work as engineers, artisans and technicians in the manufacturing space. Some 35% live in Ekurhuleni.
To date, some R126 million has been spent on staff training, with almost 300 employees having undergone skills transfer at centres of excellence around the world, operated by Gibela’s majority shareholder, Alstom.
At Gibela’s bespoke, on-site training centre, some 64 people are currently involved in apprenticeships and learnerships – 83% of these are black women. Since 2016, 650 bursaries worth R48 million have been awarded for study at South African universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
A free railway introduction course has attracted some 300 students to date, and 750 learners from schools in gate communities have benefited from extra maths and sciences classes provided by Gibela.
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On behalf of Gibela:
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Gibela was established as a consortium 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 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 2018. 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.