Don’t mind its status of Africa’s wealthy nation and largest economy. South Africa has one of the most archaic and deteriorating rail infrastructure on the continent. The country’s rail signalling is pathetic and has been blamed for many deadly accidents in the past.
But things have begun to change, as the awarding late last week of a rail signalling contract worth nearly R1.9 billion (about 185 million USD) to Thales-Maziya Consortium by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is a living proof that the country is taking the bull by its horn, and improving the situation.
This only relates to the Western Cape Province, whose provincial capital Cape Town is home to the country’s National Parliament.
The contract will include the establishment of the new Cape Town Train Traffic Control Centre, the design, construction and installation of the New Railway Signalling System and the associated Civil, Perway, Electrical and Telecommunication works, Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said.
The contract, which is part of the agency’s National New Rail Signalling Programme, is aimed at modernising the country’s rail assets.
Currently only 23 of the 162 (14%) signalling installations across the PRASA network have not exceeded their design life, the agency admitted, adding that the rest of the signalling averages 35 years in age and is at the end of its life cycle.
PRASA will undertake the New National Signalling current financial year to upgrade its aging Signalling and Telecommunication infrastructure, Zenani revealed.
This, she said, will include replacing all existing signalling interlockings which consist mainly of obsolete mechanical and electro-mechanical systems with state-of the-art electronic interlockings for future rail operations.
“Our objectives in implementing this National New Signalling Programme is to increase safety, reliability and flexibility of the network, reduce human error factors and to increase the capacity of the network in order to improve train headways and on-time train performance,” Zenani said.
Apart from the Western Cape, two more provinces have also seen their rail signalling taken into the process of refurbishment.
KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng’s contracts awarded by Prasa are 185 million USD and 109 million USD, respectively.