It could take up three years for rail agency Prasa's fortunes to improve.
JOHANNESBURG – The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has began testing the new trains made in Brazil as it moves to upgrade its ageing rolling stock.
Abram Nkgabutle, the Gauteng Modernisation Business Readiness Manager, said Prasa has completed initial test requirements for approval to commence with the first Open Line Testing (OLT) of its new set of rolling stock (trains) and has on Monday undertook the testing between Wolmerton and De-Wildt sections in the north of Pretoria.
The testings are focussed on the train speed of unto 132 kilometres per hour (km/h), passenger comfort, breaking, acceleration and handling of curves.
Nkgabutle said Monday’s tests were meant to observe if the train is able to clear the compatibility with the railway infrastructure; including station platforms clearance, while the moving speed was kept at the maximum of 60km/hour, however the speed would gradually be accelerated to 80km/h up, then 100km/h and to 132km/hour.
The new trains are part of PRASA’s modernisation programme, which includes the upgrading of key rail infrastructure over the next 20 years to enable the roll out of the new rolling stock throughout the key operational corridors.
As much as R172 billion has been set aside for this project with rail expansion, infrastructure upgrade and modernisation and rail technology advancements.
In 2014 PRASA and Gibela Consortium entered into a tender for manufacturing of 600 new trains of which only 20 trains to be manufactured in Brazil, while the remaining 580 should be manufactured at a plant in South Africa at a cost of about R60 billion.
According to Abram Nkgabutle, the Gauteng Modernisation Business Readiness Manager for PRASA, the two trains which are used in the tests are part of the 20 which are manufactured in Brazil, of which the other 18 are expected to be delivered by end of this year.
The test are in-house assessment by PRASA and Gibela technicians to ensure compliance with railway safety regulations.
Nkgabutle sais Monday’s tests went “smoothly without any challenges” and it was anticipated that the tests would continue without any major hickups when the trains are taken to other Metrorail corridors.
Nkgabutle said “further tests” will be carried out which will include the trains travelling along the rail section between Irene and Olifantsfontein, which will gradually cover Pienaaspoort to Pretoria lines.
Apart from the speed that comes with the new trains, the modernisation manager says there are a number of benefits that the trains bring to the comfort of the commuters.
“Today we have observed that the train was able to clear compatibility on our infrastructure, from here the tests would continue to the 11th May, we would be doing tests also in some of our corridors, however these tests would only be for one day per section just to confirm the infrastructure,” said Nkgabutle.
“After the tests, we anticipate opening the commercial service towards the end of the year.
“With the commercial service, the beauty is that the train is designed as a dynamic one which is able to offer commuters things that we never offered before, such as; ventilation, air-condition heating, public address (PA) system,” said Nkgabutle.
He said the trains also have onboard Close Circuit TV cameras, onboard electronic displays and improved rider quality and comfort from the improved rail shock absorber springs which the old trains does not have.
The modernisation manager said that the technology in the new trains makes them the most reliable train set which would improve on the current train failure rate that Metrorail is going through due to the old rolling stock within the company.
Meanwhile, he says the new trains design would have 6 coaches with a capacity to carry up to 1344 as compared to the old long yellow trains, which have 12 coaches that carry about 1800 commuters.
Nkgabutle said the acceleration and deceleration systems in the new trains were more advanced when compared to the trains prestntly in use.
“When the new trains arrive they would have to undergo through system tests before they taken through the OLT and once the open line test is certified the trains would then be migrated to commercial corridors, where they will start carrying commuters,” Nkgabutle explained.
The testing is expected to be completed by end of September in the anticipation of the commercial operation of the new trains planned for October this year.