2019: South Africa Assembles New Electric Passenger Trains

April 9, 2019

(Image courtesy Alstom.)

The first two X’Trapolis Mega electric passenger trains to be assembled in the Republic of South Africa were officially introduced to the public. The X’Trapolis Mega is a type of high-capacity train produced by the French multinational rail transportation company Alstom and designed for use in suburban and regional transit operations. (The origins of Alstom date back to 1928 when it was formed from a merger of Compagnie Française Thomson Houston, a sister company of the U.S.-based General Electric Company; and the electrical engineering division of Société Alsascienne de Constructions Mécaniques.)

The X’Trapolis Mega is part of the family of X’Trapolis trains that Alstom has been manufacturing since the 1990s for commuter routes in Australia, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Portugal, and Spain. The X’Trapolis Mega was designed specifically for South Africa’s rail transportation network. The initial arrangements for acquiring this type of train were made in 2013 when the commuter transit service operated in the city of Cape Town by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) placed an order for a total of 600 six-car trainsets capable of carrying 1,200 passengers each. These units were produced at Alstom’s factory in São Paulo, Brazil, and shipped in 2016 to South Africa.

In 2018, a new assembly plant for X’Trapolis Mega trains was established in South Africa. This facility is operated by a rolling stock manufacturer named Gibela. It is located in Dunnottar, a community that is approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Johannesburg. Gibela is majority-owned by Alstom, which controls 61 percent of this joint venture. (Ubumbano Rail controls 30 percent of the stakes in Gibela, while the remaining nine percent is controlled by New Africa Rail.) About 800 people are employed at Gibela’s 193-acre (78-hectare) plant.

Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, was among those on hand for the ceremony on April 9, 2019, highlighting the first of the X’Trapolis Mega trains to be assembled at the Gibela plant. In his remarks to those in attendance, Ramaphosa outlined the larger significance of the work being done at the plant. He asserted, “This program aims to revitalize the rail industry through local manufacturing of parts, maintenance, the establishment of training facilities, the achievement of 65 percent of local content, and training and skills development for PRASA employees and young people interested in the rail industry.”

For more information on the X’Trapolis Mega electric passenger trains, please check out https://www.railtech.com/rolling-stock/2019/04/16/south-african-plant-assembles-first-alstom-designed-trains/?gdpr=accept

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