Our trains of the future

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IOL  p6 prasa train done THE STAR This is the model of the new-look, sleek-nosed Metrorail trains that will hit our railways tracks in just more than a year. Picture: Zeeshan Khalique

Johannesburg - Here it is.

This is the model of the new-look, sleek-nosed Metrorail trains that will hit our railways tracks in just more than a year.

They may not have a name yet, but the new trains will have amenities such as air-conditioning, CCTV cameras, automated doors, an on-board communication system and Wi-Fi connectivity to make travelling an equally good experience as the Business Express trains or the Gautrain.

And with a peak-hour running frequency of two to three minutes and seven minutes during off-peak hours, the pain of waiting for trains could be a thing of the past.

The 1 215-seater, 12-coach trains were unveiled at Joburg’s Park station on Tuesday when the Passenger Rail Association of SA (Prasa) announced its new rolling stock trains programme to replace its ageing Metrorail fleet.

The new trains will be rolled out in the first quarter of 2015. In Gauteng, the trains will run between Mabopane outside Pretoria and Naledi in Soweto.

sleek trains2 The Passenger Association of SA unveiled its new rolling stock fleet of trains at Park station. Photo: Motshwari Mofokeng. THE STAR

Prasa will also introduce a Business Express Train version of the new trains, with a 1 025 seating capacity.

The unveiling came a week after Prasa announced Gibela Rail Transportation as the preferred bidder to supply its rolling stock for its R123 billion fleet-renewal programme.

Gibela is a consortium comprising French power and transport group Alstom and local electrical engineering firm Actom.

In total, Prasa plans to purchase 7 224 new coaches over the next 20 years to replace its existing fleet. The parastatal’s bigwigs were quick to allay concerns that the multibillion contract would see money going overseas and disadvantage local companies. The deal will consist of 65 percent local manufacturers.

“The trains will be manufactured in South Africa by South Africans,” said Prasa project manager Piet Sebola.

Group chief executive Lucky Montana added: “I want to assure the country that these trains will be built in South Africa and not be [built] in France and assembled in South Africa. We want to make sure that South Africa has the capacity to design and build trains.”

sleek trains An artist's impression of a new train, above and below, set for unveiling in 2015. Prasa announced Gibela Rail Transportation as the preferred bidder to supply its rolling stock for its R123 billion fleet-renewal programme. Graphics: Zeeshan Khalique SUPPLIED

Montana said the current Metrorail fleet was so old and dilapidated, it was failing to meet the needs of commuters.

“We have reached a point where we can no longer pump money revamping the old trains. It has reached a low level of revitalising… We cannot continue to have a commuter system where you have trains for the wealthy people and [others] for the poor,” he said, adding that the existing fleet would be scrapped.

He said the new trains would have new signals costing more than R17bn to ensure that they run at short-frequency times.

“What it means is that we will have a safer system with the capacity to move trains quicker. The 30-minute waiting period will be a thing of the past. People will have a train every two to three minutes,” Montana said.

The new trains would also be equipped with user-friendly facilities for the disabled.

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