State freight logistics group Transnet confirmed on Wednesday that it had “withdrawn” a tender for 212 diesel locomotives, ending protracted commercial discussions with Electromotive Diesel (EMD), of the US, which had been named previously as the preferred bidder for the R6-billion contract.

The initial tender was issued on September 18, 2006, and EMD had been named as the preferred bidder on August 31, 2007.

Spokesperson John Dludlu confirmed with Engineering News that a new “confined tender” for the supply of 100 diesel locomotives had been issued to international original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), but stressed that this was a “separate and distinct” process from the initial tender.

The new tender would close on Tuesday, February 17, and it was understood that EMD had been invited to participate.

Transnet did not immediately confirm the names of the other OEMs invited, but GE Transportation revealed on Tuesday that it was participating.

Speaking at a ‘GE Day’ event, which took place at the Sandton Convention Centre, GE Transportation’s GM, sales for Middle East and Africa Peter Thomas said that the group was engaging with the Transnet tender and was excited by the opportunities presented in the South African market.

He described the domestic rail sector, which is the largest in Africa, as “vibrant” and noted the NYSE-listed company had previously supplied significant numbers of diesel locomotives to the market.

Dludlu confirmed that the 100 diesel locomotives would be deployed primarily for use by its general freight business, but said further details would only be disclosed “at an appropriate time after the adjudication and evaluation processes are completed”.

The withdrawal of the 212 locomotive tender came as something of a surprise given that outgoing Transnet CEO Maria Ramos had stated in October that the process could be concluded by early 2009.

However, an indication had also been given at the time that Transnet was hoping to pursue a new, “more commercial approach” to the acquisition of new traction power, given the “breathing space” created by the slowing international and domestic economies.