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New trains to take goods off the road

Written by Nthambeleni Gabara

Infrastructure development

Over the past 20 years the use of goods trains has declined, with more goods being transported by road.

All that is about to change following Transnet’s announcement that it intends to buy slick new goods trains and refurbish existing ones.

To reverse the rail to road migration, Transnet has expanded its capital expenditure budget from R110 billion over fi years to R300 billion over seven years. The first batch of locomotives will be delivered to Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) by December 2013, while the last batch is expected to be delivered in September 2014.

The incidental costs to the economy of using roads instead of rail to transport goods, called road externalities, are estimated to be R34 billion per year.

Locomotives from China

Recently Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba announced the winning bidder of Transnet’s two large tenders for the procurement of 95 electric trains for its general freight business (GFB).

“We are here to announce the procurement of 95 electric locomotives from China South Rail (CSR) Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive and Basadi Matsetse.

“This tender required the suppliers to meet a minimum of a 60 per cent localisation threshold to qualify,” he said.

Minister Gigaba said rail, through its implicit economies of scale, had key advantages over road for the movement of large volume and heavy goods in that it decreased road congestion and road damages, while increasing road safety.

He said the rapid move from rail to road was a natural response to the removal of restrictive regulations which required special permits for bulk freight on the road.

“The rail system remains a core element of building a globally competitive logistics system to support global trade. It also has less environmentally negative externalities and produces significantly less carbon emissions,” he said.

Local production

It was critical to improve the quality of rail infrastructure and associated operating equipment, which will invariably contribute to improving the performance and reliability of rail, he added.

The parties committed to produce the majority of the locomotives locally. However, the fi 10 locomotives will be assembled in CSR’s factories in China, while the remainder will be made in South Africa. This is in line with the agreed supplier development targets of 60.5 per cent of the total value of the contract. The locomotives come with a 30-month warranty and a six-year warranty on the traction motors.

Transnet Group Chief Executive Officer Brian Molefe said the purchase was part of Transnet’s long-term fleet renewal programme to increase capacity, while at the same time improving the average age of its fleet.

He said this was aimed at delivering on the requirements of the Market Demand Strategy (MDS). In terms of the MDS, TFR is expected to grow its volumes from the 201 million tonnes per year to over 350 million tonnes in just seven years.

Energy efficient

The new locomotives, said Molefe, “are more energy efficient as they use less power on TFR’s DC drive technology; capable of re-generating back to the power grid or for own re-use; longer maintenance cycles of 90 to 120 days compared to the current 36 to 60 days as well as better design for driver comfort.

“In addition to the 95 locomotives which was accelerated due to urgent requirements and had already gone through the governance processes, Transnet has invited additional proposals for the supply of 1064 locomotives (465 diesel and 599 electric locomotives),” he said. These are to meet and maintain the MDS volumes targets in line with the company’s R300 billion seven-year investment programme