Canadian rail and aerospace specialist Bombardier hopes to grow its current participation in the local rail sector, limited largely to the Gautrain project, as well as rolling stock refurbishment and the provision of spare parts.

“We have a whole lot of ambition to participate in the South African rail industry,” says Bombardier Transportation South Africa vicepresident Dave Barry.

“We’re aware of the Moloto rail project, the proposed Cape Town airport rail link, and we realise there is huge need and potential in South Africa for new rolling stock, as can be seen with the planned recapitalisation of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation (SARCC).”

Barry says the company could be instrumental in providing rolling stock, as well as entire rail systems.
Bombardier is a member of the Bombela consortium, currently building the Gautrain project.

Bombela consists of international partners Bombardier and Bouygues Travaux Publics, with local stakeholders being Murray & Roberts, black economic-empowerment company the Strategic Partners Group, the J&J Group, as well as Absa Bank.

The local rail industry has been hopeful of a revival, following several government announcements on a host of proposed projects.

For example, a major recapitalisation programme is on the cards at government-owned SARCC subsidiary Metrorail, which will involve the acquisition of around 5 000 new coaches over the next ten to 12 years.

The SARCC is also planning on developing a rail link between Cape Town’s main airport and the central business district, with 2011 the current implementation date.

In addition, government aims to develop the Moloto rail corridor, running between Tshwane and Mpumalanga, at a cost of R9,7-billion.

Barry says Bombardier may explore using its current links with Gautrain partner, the Nigel-based Murray & Roberts subsidiary the Union Carriage & Wagon Partnership (UCWP) – which is assembling a large portion of the rolling stock for the rapid-rail link – to satisfy its ambitions in the Southern African region.
“It is the first time we have gone overseas with Electrostar production,” says Barry.

“The level of quality and workmanship we have seen here is at least the same, if not better, than in Derby.”

The Gautrain rolling stock of 96 rail cars is based on the Bombardier Electrostar series, which is normally manufactured at the company’s facility in Derby, in the UK.