Several tenders for modern technology have been adjudicated, and GE Transportation Rail expects to secure some orders within the next three months, says the company’s locomotive-modernisation manager, Rebecca Sidelinger, who visited South Africa recently, Locomotive-modernisation technology has gained acceptance worldwide and the company has modernised over 700 locomotives on 20 railways, says Sidelinger.
One of the most significant challenges in dealing with rail in Africa is the ageing fleet, in addition to financial constraints, bureaucracy and poor infrastructure development.
Sidelinger notes that constraints such as these are not only faced by African countries, but also by other emerging countries worldwide.
Until recently, the unavailability of funding has been one of the most hampering factors, but now there are more institutions, such as the World Bank, that are willing to make financial contributions to African development.
There are over 1 700 GE locomotives in Africa, with an average fleet age of 25 to 30 years.
Sidelinger says some fleets in Africa are so dilapidated that only half of the locomotives are in operation and many cannot even be used, as they are in dire need of repair.
An advantage, however, is that old com- ponents can be replaced with new ones and, in some cases, this costs less than half the price of new equipment. In fact, cost savings range from 30% to 50%, and the modernised fleet will then last about 20 years, she adds. Even after the cost of modernisation, the customer can save between $300 000 and a million dollars over the life of the locomotive.
The improved technology offers significant cost savings for the customer, with fuel consumption being up to 10% more efficient and improved reliability being a key driver for availability.
In Africa, locomotive modernisation was first undertaken in Cameroon with the implementation of GE Transportation Rail’s microprocessor technology, known as the BrightStar system.
Locally, the BrightStar system was used in Sasol’s locomotive-upgrade project, which GE Transportation Rail is implementing in conjunction with its black economically-empowered implementation partner, DCD Dorbyl.