KZN firms eye railways deal

2012-04-20 00:00

A NUMBER of KwaZulu-Natal businesses have come forward in an attempt to benefit from the R123 billion investment in new rolling stock for the country’s passenger railway network, which was announced last year.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele yesterday officially launched a request by the the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) for bids for its rolling stock fleet renewal programme, which will see the procurement of 7 224 metro coaches.

Ndebele said: “The market engagements, informal inquiries and lunches come to an end, and with the launch of the RFP [request for proposals] we begin a formal process over the next four months to select suitable partners who will deliver modern technology in line with our economic development objectives.

“At the moment, the current rolling stock is old, with the majority of the current coaches built in the 1960s and 1970s, and still being driven by 1950 technology.

“Our rail system has reached the end of its design life. The system … is no longer able to meet passenger expectations and economic demands effectively, and is at a stage where it has to be replaced.”

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) president Paris Dlamini told The Witness that about 32 local companies had expressed an interest in the initial outlays, worth R4 billion.

This followed a call by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize in a meeting he initiated with the business community in late February 2012, for KZN businesses to take advantage of the spending programme.

Mkhize’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, confirmed the premier’s office had had feedback on the response from the business community.

Palello Lebaka, the managing director of train coach manufacturer Commuter Transport Engineering, which has an operation at Mason’s Mill in Pietermaritzburg, was involved in co-ordinating the efforts of local businesses in gaining a foothold in this market.

He told The Witness that the aim was to understand the current capability, capacity and interest of local businesses when it came to the rail coach investment programme.

“The idea is to cast the net wider for other businesses to get involved.

“Companies that previously did not see rail as a target market could benefit from the investment,” Lebaka said.

He added that local businesses could supply products and services for various needs, including telecommunications, public address systems, coach seating and flooring, lighting and electronics.

Lebaka said organised business structures like the PCB and the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry were involved in the process, following Mkhize’s call to action.

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