Mofi said the unveiling of the new locomotive, which has been named the Afro 4000 series, was an overwhelming occasion. "A whole lot of us are emotional today because this is a realisation of a dream, a dream that will change the travelling experience of all South Africans," he said.

Swifambo Rail Leasing, a local company to which Prasa outsourced the project, awarded Vossloh Railway Services a contract to supply 70 new high-tech locomotives - made up of 50 Euro Dual electro-diesel and 20 Euro 4000 diesel locomotives in October 2013. While delivery of the Euro 4000s is underway, construction of the EuroDual units recently began at the company's plant in Valencia, Spain, and complete delivery is expected by the end of 2016.

The launch is considered a major step for the rail operator to address concerns about train delays, which have plagued the rail network. Mofi said the new locomotives would be used primarily to serve the long distance market, while 10 of the 70 locomotives would be allocated to the Eastern Cape region. The locomotives will operate on six long-distance corridors initially, including the Johannesburg to Cape Town route. As Prasa receives additional units during the first half of 2015, the mumber of corridors served will be increased to 10.

Mofi said the locomotives would be tested over the next three months, and that the rail operator expected to commence revenue services in March.

For an in-depth look at Vossloh's Electro-diesel locomotives, see the September issue of IRJ p57, or click here.