The facility, the largest in Africa, was officially opened by the president of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, in front of more than 300 people.

Also present to celebrate this historic opening were the South African minister of transport, Dr Blade Nzimande, Gauteng Province premier, Mr David Makhura, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) CEO, Mr Sibusiso Sithole, Gibela CEO, Mr Thierry Darthout, Alstom senior vice president for Middle East and Africa, Mr Didier Pfleger, and Alstom managing director Southern Africa, Mr Xavier Boisgontier.

A fleet of 580 six-car X’Trapolis Mega commuter EMUs will be built for Prasa at the 53,000m2 site over the next 10 years. Alstom says the site’s manufacturing workshops are modular to enable lean manufacturing processes which will, at peak production, produce 62 trains per year with the first set expected to roll out of the factory at the end of the year.

The manufacturing facility and its equipment feature the latest innovations, allowing the advanced manufacturing processes necessary for the assembly of at least 10,000 parts and the linkage of 250 industrial activities. The plant also features a bespoke training centre supporting the continued transfer of new rail-related skills to Gibela’s employees and suppliers, as well as a 1.2km test track for the dynamic testing of the new trains. More than 700 employees are expected to work at the site by the end of 2020.

“We are all immensely proud of what we’ve achieved and are committed to delivering trains to Prasa,” Pfleger says. “This factory is a major boost to the rail industry in the country, as South Africa will now be able to produce state-of-the-art trains locally and will become the Alstom centre of excellence for rail in Africa. This will have a positive impact not only for South African commuters, but also for the country’s economy as a whole.”