Celebrating #Gibela Innovative #Trains

By Segun Olanjorin

Africa is not bereft of innovations and South Africa is no doubt a hub of industrial innovations on the continent. Despite her many problems, African industrialisation has Pretoria as a bedrock. The Gibela project is a glamorous model and confirmation of this reality.

We highlight this commendable project which we are sure will whither the storm of Covid-19 and proceed to fulfil a brilliant vision of enhancing South African and even African rail revival. If you know about Gibela before,read more about this innovative company.

“In just a few years, Gibela has progressed from signatures on a contract to become both engine for the replacement of South Africa’s ageing fleet of commuter trains and bedrock for the re-establishment of the country’s rail manufacturing industry.

A black economic empowerment (BEE) consortium comprising Alstom, Ubumbano Rail and New Africa Rail, Gibela was awarded a R53 billion contract in 2013 by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, representing the South African Government, to build 600 new trains for the country’s urban rail commuters.

Today, state-of-the-art X’trapolis MEGA commuter trains are rolling off the production line at Gibela’s R1 billion bespoke factory in South Africa’s metropolis of Ekurhuleni for deployment by PRASA into South Africa’s urban rail network.

In fulfilment of contractual obligations to PRASA, Gibela is training thousands of historically disadvantaged South Africans – many of them women – in new skills both for its own needs and those of the rail sector as a whole; drawing scores of South African companies, many of them BEE start-ups, into its supply chain; and improving the lives of people in its neighbouring communities.

What do you know about Gibela Trains?

Read along.

The X’Trapolis MEGA – a South African first

State-of-the-art, developed to accommodate South Africa’s 1.067m gauge rail tracks, some X’trapolis MEGAs – each 131 metres long and weighing 220 tonnes – are already in service.

The first 20 trains were built at Alstom’s Lapa plant in Brazil – two as test trains and 18 for commercial service. South Africans were among the manufacturing team in Lapa as part of an ambitious skills transfer programme, and South African raw materials were shipped to Brazil, triggering Gibela’s commitment to a minimum of 65% South African content.

As more trains roll off Gibela’s Ekurhuleni production line, more will be deployed on Metrorail routes around South Africa, for the benefit of growing numbers of South Africa’s rail commuting public.

Currently estimated at 2.3 million and expected to double in the next 20 years, rail commuters are starting to experience unprecedented levels of safety, comfort, speed and reliability from the new trains.

The X’Trapolis MEGA’s stand-out features include:

-Capacity of up to 1 200 passengers in six cars – the modular design allows for adjustment during periods of higher and lower demand.

-Travelling speed of up to 120kmph that can be increased to 160kmph.

-Latest international safety features, including an anti-crash system designed to protect drivers and passengers.

-Lightweight structure, using South African stainless steel, consuming significantly less energy than standard trains.

-Numerous other energy-saving features – regenerative braking that delivers a 30% reduction in energy consumption; energy generated by braking is directed into the train’s power network, reducing carbon emissions and costs.

-Components that are 90% recyclable.

-Six wide double doors per coach, providing commuters with easy access, particularly for those who are mobility challenged, the elderly and mothers with pushchairs.

-Spacious interiors making for easy movement.

-Large exterior windows providing lots of natural light, supported by various and various LED lighting options.

-Wide, unobstructed gangways, ensuring uninterrupted views down the train to enhance safety and security.



-Wi-Fi internet access.

-Large ergonomic toilets on board some of the trains.

*Segun Olanjorin is a senior manager operations at African Railway Roundtable.

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