Prasa launches 100 new locally manufactured trains

The transport department and the parastatal unveiled the 100th locomotive set, which is produced locally by the Gibela Consortium.

One of the new 100 locally manufactured trains. Picture: Fikile Mbalula/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has celebrated the launch of 100 new trains under its modernisation programme.

The transport department and the parastatal unveiled the 100th locomotive set, which is produced locally by the Gibela Consortium.

Gibela is a Black Economic Empowerment consortium - where French rail company Alstom and Ubambano Rail own 70% and 30% equity respectively.

"As we celebrate the 100th train set - we recognize the milestone as a giant leap towards [an] affordable integrated public transport network," said transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

South Africa’s railway system has been crippled by vandalism and lack of maintenance of its ageing infrastructure including old and non-functional Metrorail trains.

The trains run at 120km per hour and have the capacity to carry 1,200 passengers.

The six-cart train only moves when its doors are closed and it is fitted with surveillance cameras and air conditioning.

R124 billion has been budgeted for the entire renewal project over 20 years.

But the parastatal needs over R6 billion just to refurbish its infrastructure and trains to pre-COVID conditions.

Prasa board chair Leonard Ramatlakane concedes that the commissioning of the new trains has been slow.

“The delay would be some of the infrastructure is not ready for that.”

The trains are currently operational in the Atteridgeville and Mabopane railway lines as well as in Cape Town.

The next line to receive the new trains will be Naledi in Soweto.

ONLY 52 TRAINS COMMISSIONED

Only half of the 100 new locomotives acquired by Prasa is compatible with the existing infrastructure.

It’s almost impossible to forget Prasa’s R2.6 billion blunder in 2013 where it bought locomotives that wasn't compatible with our rail network.

According to Prasa, only 52 of the new 105 trains procured from Gibela have been commissioned.

Ramatlakane said only parts of the country’s railway system were ready for the new trains: “Modernisation means that we need to lift the platform to be at the same level as the train. It means we have to fix the [train] lines because the wheels of this train are not the same as the wheels of Metrorail trains.”

Prasa is working on other parts of its network including the Naledi line as it plans to slowly phase out the older Metrorail coaches.