The new trains will replace Prasa's ageing Metrorail commuter rail fleets in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. Delivery of the X'Trapolis Mega trains will start in 2015 and continue until 2025. The contract is the first phase of a Rand 123bn 20-year project to procure a total of 7224 cars.

The first 20 trains will be built at Alstom's Lapa plant in São Paulo as the trains will have stainless-steel bodyshells and this is Alstom's centre of excellence for stainless steel. The first emu should enter service in December 2015. Production will then switch to a new factory which Gibela will construct in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg.

The trains will have a maximum speed of 120km/h but will be designed for modification to operate at up to 160km/h. Each six-car train will be able to accommodate up to 1300 passengers, but it will be possible to adjust the length of trains to operate four or six-car sets.

One of the objectives of the project is to revitalise South Africa's railway industry both in terms of skills and capability. "The project will create around 30,000 man-years of jobs and an average of 65% local content," Mr Andreas Knitter, Alstom Transport's senior vice-president, North Europe and Africa, told IRJ.

Alstom has a 61% share in the Gibela joint venture and will be working with South African company New Africa Rail which has a 9% stake and is new to the railway industry and keen to develop its expertise. The remaining 30% share in Gibela is held by Ubumbano Rail which is the hosting entity in the National Empowerment Fund for the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment partners.

Knitter says that Alstom will eventually be able to use its new plant in South Africa as a base for exporting 1067mm and metre-gauge trains to neighbouring countries and further afield such as South East Asia.


Above: interior view of X'Trapoilis Mega.