London – Here it is … the first of Gautrain’s new train sets.

Yesterday, in Derby, England, the set was officially handed over to Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa.

And it was with pride, and totally oblivious to the drama on Oxford Road in Joburg, that Shilowa climbed into the driver’s seat to take the train for a test run.

“It was superb, it was just as I expected,” he gushed afterwards.

The Gautrain’s rolling stock of 96 rail cars is based on the renowned Bombardier Electrostar series.

The lightweight aluminium car bodies, a first for SA, offer increased energy efficiency and cuts maintenance requirements.

They have been customised to meet South African requirements.

“Gautrain has reached a major milestone in its delivery of world-class public transport to South Africa,” said Shilowa, promising that the project would be finished before the 2010 World Cup.

Jerome Govender, CEO of the Bombela consortium, said the new train would change people’s mindsets.

He too seemed unaware that sections of Oxford Road had collapsed.

“We have all experienced the civil works and the inconvenience of construction. This will show Gautrain is a whole system involving many other aspects,” he said.

The first 15 cars, plus the body shells for the complete fleet, will be manufactured at Bombardier Transportation’s facility in Derby.

The body shells and some of the major components for the remaining 81 rail cars will be shipped to Union Carriage & Wagon in Nigel, Gauteng, for final assembly.

Teams from UCW are being trained at Derby and will become the core of the assembly teams when local production begins.

The Electrostar vehicles will be customised to meet the requirements of air passengers travelling on the dedicated 15-minute link between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton.

The two forward cars will feature fewer, but wider and more luxurious seats, and special areas for luggage storage near the doors.

Dedicated technicians will be recruited locally and trained by Bombardier to maintain the Gautrain.