The newly acquired train intended to give a little modernity to the long-aged metrorail commuter is ready for use and commuters between Mamelodi and Pretoria will be the first to be ferried with it.
The train which was acquired through the R59bn deal with Gibela Rail Transport Consortium will be replacing the old ones which ferry 2.2-million passengers daily.
Rail is the backbone of public transport in Cape Town and the disruptions have affected thousands of commuters who have had to resort to other modes of transport at extra cost.
The old trains are over 40 years old and are unreliable requiring continuous refurbishing and maintenance but with the arrival of the new ones purchased by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), commuters should be hopeful for a better service.
Speaking at the “Open-Line testing” of the first of the new trains in Pretoria on Monday‚ Prasa business readiness manager for modernization in Gauteng‚ Abram Nkgabutle‚ said the new trains were expected to go into commercial service in October and it would first run between Mamelodi and Pretoria, albeit incorporating some of the old Metrorail coaches.
Mr Nkgabutle however noted that three months after this, only the new trains will operate on the Mamelodi-Pretoria route.
Gibela Rail Transport Consortium is a special purpose vehicle for the deal which is 61% owned by French power and transport giant Alstom.
The Gibela deal is however separate from Prasa’s contract for R3.5bn, inflated to more than R4.8bn due to inadequate hedging, for locomotives from Spanish manufacturer Vossloh Espana through black economic empowerment partner, Swifambo Rail Leasing.
These locomotives — one of which derailed during tests last year amid revelations that the locos were too tall for existing infrastructure — are intended for the long-distance service, Shosholoza Meyl.
Meanwhile, twenty of the new trains were manufactured in Brazil at Alstom facilities to speed up the modernization programme. The rest of the 580 trains will be manufactured at a R1bn factory which is under construction in Dunnottar, in Ekurhuleni.
“The trains will come and then we will move from a mixing strategy to a well-enclosed service where the new trains will be able to operate separately from the old ones,” said Mr Nkgabutle. “Because when you used the new train with the old train, you will lose the benefits of the new train because of the old trains with their current performance.”Prasa stated.
Prasa added it had worked 24-hour shifts for seven days a week to prepare the depot and test track for the new trains. It has since received three trains, two of which are test trains and do not have full interiors or seats.
The first train, which is undergoing open-line testing, arrived in November from Alstom facilities in Brazil but was without a depot or test track. The third train is expected to be the first to run on the Mamelodi-Pretoria corridor in October.