The agreement, which starts in December, is worth Rand 6.5m ($US 474m) and is being paid for through a grant from the AFD.

The Alstom-led Gibela Rail Transport Consortium started to commission the first 600 X’Trapolis Mega EMUs early this year under a Rand 59bn contract awarded in 2013, and the first 16 trains entered service between Pretoria and Pienaarspoort in May. Delivery of the fleet will continue in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and lastly the Eastern Cape, and is due to be completed in 2025.

The partnership with SNCF is designed to ensure that the new trains are operation-ready and deployed on time. An SNCF technical expert will be based in South Africa for the duration of the agreement to assist with any operating problems.