South Africa plays a vital role in the economy of the African continent, providing one third of its gross national product. As economic growth on the continent has strengthened, so has the demand for a modernised railway infrastructure. The South African railway network comprises almost 25,000km of track, making it the largest in Africa and the tenth largest in the world.
According to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and the Department of Transport, rail is an effective solution to the problem of South Africa’s crowded roads. To this end, spend will be concentrated on rail, new rolling stock, upgrade of infrastructure and the upliftment of stations.
PRASA has now commissioned Siemens with the construction of a new Gauteng Nerve Centre for centralised rail traffic management including the delivery of several modernised electronic interlocking signalling systems. The contract is worth a whopping R900 million and is the largest signalling project ever to have been awarded in the country. It will provide the rail signalling industry as a whole with an opportunity to increase its resources and focus on developing the core skills required to support the industry. Moreover, rail signalling is set to become an attractive market for up and coming engineers.
The project is a turnkey contract from the design phase to operational handover to be executed over a five-year period. The scope includes the construction of the Gauteng Nerve Centre (GNC) and the installation of Electronic Interlocking Signalling Systems at 15 stations across the country. In addition, there are upgrades to relay rooms, tracks and a number of local and remote control stations.
Amongst the core equipment are Siemens axle counters, points machines and signal sets which will be controlled by the SICAS Electronic Interlocking system – “the brain” of the system – at each of the stations. Information collected at the stations will then be transmitted to the newly constructed nerve centre via a telecoms backbone. This technology will modernise PRASA’s rail network, which is almost obsolete in some areas. Having an upgraded rail infrastructure will allow PRASA to better monitor, control and manage its assets, enabling PRASA to deliver a more effective rail service to thousands of commuters across the country. It will enable PRASA to deliver improved rail services that will be used by more commuters – the service will simply become more pleasant.
“The signalling industry is very small, comprising of extremely dedicated people. There has been talk of this project for some time and Siemens is extremely proud to be involved in this significant development”, says Kevin Pillay, Head of the Siemens Infrastructure and Cities Sector.
“It’s a tremendously exciting time for all players in the rail industry – the opportunity to change the future of passenger transport in South Africa.”
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