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A division of Transnet SOC Limited, Transnet Rail Engineering comprises a group of product-focused businesses, which manufacture, upgrade, convert, repair and maintain railway rolling stock. The company also supplies spares and associated transport equipment. Edited by Ian Armitage




ransnet Rail Engineering (TRE) is the African continent’s largest rail engineering organisation by far. It supplies and maintains the rolling stock used by both Transnet Freight Rail, South Africa’s main-line freight railway operator, and PRASA, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, the country’s passenger rail carrier. In the more recent past, it has been supplying both rolling stock and technical support services to South Africa’s neighbouring states such as Botswana, Namibia and Angola among others. For example, TRE landed a recent contract to potentially build 3,000 new wagons for Riversdale coal mine at Moatize in Mozambique. “Our strong position has been achieved through the leveraging of core competencies and strategically positioned factories and maintenance facilities in the key transport corridors,” says TRE CE Richard Vallihu. “TRE is a leading South African supplier to the railway industry through its ability to manufacture, upgrade and refurbish rolling stock and rail-related products. Our principal objective is to meet and exceed all our commitments and obligations to our partner companies in the rail industry.” TRE began its operations almost a century ago as the Mechanical Engineering Workshops of the South African Railways and grew in unison with the expansion of railways in the region. By 1990, when its owner, the South African Transport Services re-registered as Transnet Limited, Transnet Rail Engineering was formed as a separate division and now operates as a portfolio of eight national product-focused businesses: namely Locomotives, Coaches, Wagon, Foundry, Rolling Stock Equipment, Rotating Machines, and Wheels and Auxiliary. As much of South Africa’s rolling stock was very old, the introduction of new technology was an urgent priority. Much of the earlier technology was no longer supported with spares and repairs were becoming problematic. TRE undertook various remanufacturing programmes where, particularly, locomotives were stripped completely and rebuilt to new condition once more. However, these remanufacturing initiatives also allowed TRE engineers to upgrade the technology at the same



time, replacing older analogue-type control systems with modern microprocessor based systems. Attention was also given to driver comfort with the refurbished locos being fitted with air-conditioned, ergonomic cabs in order to alleviate driver fatigue. During the 2010/11 financial year, TRE successfully built 50 Class 39/200 ”as new” diesel locomotives, which are now running on TFR lines. TRE is now busy with the build/assembly of ninety class Class 43000 GE locomotives, a project that is going according to programme. For the first time, TRE is building underframes and bogies – new technology that has been brought into the organisation, explains Vallihu. And then the demands of South Africa’s high profit railway lines, the coal and the iron-ore export lines saw the development of new, higher payload wagons. In South Africa, more than 100 million tons of coal and iron ore are transported every year on some of the world’s longest trains comprising wagons that are designed, developed, manufactured and maintained by TRE. For example, the CCR11 wagon is a purpose-made 1,067mm gauge, bulk-coal heavy-haul gondola wagon capable of carrying an 84-ton payload. The wagon features a monocoque design to reduce 6

the weight of the unit and is fitted with self-steering HS type bogies for high speed, high stability and extended wheel life. The load compartment is manufactured from 3CR 12 corrosion resistant steel, which provide superior life in excess of 20 years. The iron-ore line has also had 100-ton payload wagons developed for it. Riversdale / Rio Tinto Mozambique, has made TRE’s Uitenhage Centre the supplier of choice for a wagon fleet to carry the Moatize coal. An initial order was placed for 200 tippler coal-wagons to carry coal to the port of Beira. Each wagon weighs 21.5 tonnes and has a 71 cubic metre carrying capacity, which translates to a payload per wagon of approximately 61.5 tonnes of coal. To ensure the wagons deliver long service lives, Uitenhage is manufacturing the load-boxes from corrosion and abrasion-resistant 3CR12 steel. More recently TRE has been designing and building new wagons types. Fertiliser manufacturer Omnia has expanded its production capacity and consequently now needs more tanker wagons. The contract for the manufacture of 120 ammonia tanker wagons by TRE’s Germiston Centre was signed in June 2010. The new ammonia tankers are capable of carrying 3,000 litres and will have an axle loading of 20 tons. These 18-metre-long wagons will have a maximum tank diameter of 3.2 metres. The tanks will be constructed of special boilerplate material, which is intended for use on high-pressure vessels. While manufacturing new wagons is important, keeping them

POWERTRANS South African-owned manufacturer and supplier Powertrans strives to offer its clients the “best value solutions”. This has been the driving force behind many successful years of business. Headquartered in Isithebe, Powertrans’ combination of sales, service and efficiency puts it at the forefront of the automatic transmissions and engines market. Over the years, the business has continuously expanded, growing its service offering, reaching out to a greater number of clients in a mix of industries. Today, in fact, says company MD Raven Naidoo, Powertrans even designs and manufactures its own tractors for the Agricultural and Construction Industry. But, this is a company that keeps its ears to the ground... always... guaranteeing clients the best support, competitive prices and excellent quality. Powertrans does more than supply industry with a vast range of superior quality engineering components, it also provides the technical resources needed to keep machinery operating at an optimal level. It services, among other brands, MercedesBenz, CAT, Deutz, Kirloskar, ADE, Perkins, Sisu and Mitsubishi - it is no surprise it’s

motto is “sales and service”. The company’s vision is to be “a powerful force in the engineering industry”, providing superior technical solutions to its customers. This will be achieved through its quality products and the best technical skills available. Powertrans, which is heavily involved in the repair and rebuilding of all types of heavyduty automatic transmissions and engines for earth-moving equipment, brings in a turnover of R30 million a year. “Powertrans services and supplies many customers in a host of different industries,” Naidoo says. Beside its Durban branch, Powertrans has another branch operating in Richards Bay. “We are constantly expanding and growing our involvement within the industry,” Naidoo adds. Powertrans currently employs just over 100 employees at its main branch in Isithebe.

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in service is equally imperative. TRE recently opened a new R120 million South Dunes Wagon Maintenance Depot, which was officially handed over in July 2011. The state-of-the-art facility was built to service an increasing demand for wagons. “This opening signifies progress and movement after expansion of the port left us unable to grow our repair business,” says General Manager: Wagons, Peter Cona. “Not only is the depot the newest and best, it is extremely well equipped and laid out. Richards Bay is one of our two most productive depots, maintaining some 6,000 of our fleet of over 7,000 coal line wagons. “This goes beyond mere job creation and capacity building. We are at the same time up-skilling employees to maintain the new technology. The depot has high performance standards and can compete with any in the world,” he adds. Transporting passengers is also a priority for the South African

governments Department of Transport. Here TRE is playing a dynamic role taking out of date suburban coaches and fitting them upgraded body shells, constructed using a modular design with complete stainless steel sides, ends and roofs. A TRE success story, the 10M5 commuter coach has been developed to be South Africa’s principal short distance passenger transporter. Its interior capacity has been designed to carry the maximum number of passengers in uncrowded comfort. The construction of the 10M5 combines affordability and reliability with quality manufacture. Its durable, vandal resistant interior is constructed of fire retarding material. For additional passenger safety, the doors are fitted with a drivercontrolled interlock system, to ensure they stay closed while the coach in motion. Also, responding to a more recent need for an executive standard passenger unit, TRE developed the Business Express short haul passenger coach. Its interior is tasteful yet comfortable, but at the same

This opening signifies progress and movement



About Transnet Transnet SOC Ltd is South Africa’s rail, port and pipeline parastatal, headquartered in the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg. It was formed as a limited company on April 1, 1990 and is responsible to the Department of Public Enterprises. The business units of Transnet are: Transnet National Ports Authority Transnet Port Terminals Transnet Pipelines Transnet Freight Rail Transnet Rail Engineering Transnet Capital Projects

time designed to be hard wearing. This ‘office on rail’ is fitted with a dedicated area with 220 volt AC power to accommodate laptop computers. Other services in this coach include Internet connectivity and wi-fi, and restaurantquality coffee on tap. For the long-distance train traveller, TRE has developed the main line coach. Here a typical trainset would consist of sitter coaches, sleeper coaches, catering coaches and a coach to house a generator. The trainset is supplied with 220 volt AC power, and the level of comfort is calculated to avoid passenger fatigue. TRE has also adapted this type of coach to have either conference or hospitality facilities built in. In all of its activities, TRE places the safety of its employees and anyone else involved with the company above all else. Leading by example, Richard Vallihu cautioned against complacency and stressed the need to improve safety standards.

The aim of maintaining TRE as a safe efficient world-class company is being driven with relentless vigour by its top management. To enhance efficiency, TRE has invested millions of rands in the Lean Six Sigma manufacturing system, which is now in its fourth year of implementation. The system has been inculcated into every level of TRE, mainly through the Letsema system, where groups of workers are allowed, and expected, to manage their own specific aspect of the production process. Also, through the Letsema structures, TRE has been training hundreds of people to cut out waste in the manufacturing processes and to continuously improve systems and efficiency. Five years ago in 2006, the international consulting firm McKinsey & Co. was employed by Transnet to look at world benchmarks with a view to upgrading the local operation.

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This gave rise to the Vulindlela process, which required that TRE meet certain operational benchmarks by the 2010/2011 financial year. Today, TRE is proud that it has met, and in many cases, exceeded these targets. The two principal measures for the Vulindlela campaign were to reduce the ‘faults per million kilometres’ score and increase the availability of rolling stock to percentages in the high 90s. To put that in perspective, globally, availabilities of 95 percent are what many rail networks set for new locomotives. Because the locomotive fleet in South Africa is between 30 and 50 years old the targets were adapted slightly. In spite of this handicap, TRE manufactured and maintained rolling stock is achieving reliability figures that exceed accepted benchmarks for rail in the rest of the world. “To achieve these results has taken huge commitment from our people,” says Vallihu.


As new technology is fundamental to the advancement of its business, TRE works closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and railway engineering specialists across the globe. State-of-theart and best engineering practice are incorporated into its growing product portfolio and – in addition to its own in-house design office – TRE has access to other specialist design companies to acquire the blueprints for developing new rolling stock. Many of its plants have received ‘Centre of Excellence’ awards and accreditation by OEMs, while its products are marketed worldwide. Transnet Rail Engineering strives to delight its customers and to exceed the expectations of the rail freight industry. “The processes of manufacture and overhaul are as important as the product itself and Transnet Rail Engineering is not only committed to increased research and development but also to invest in new production equipment, infrastructure and training of its personnel. This also includes a fully integrated computerised SAP driven system of control extending to all activities.” Through six well-equipped, ISO-certified factories and, with a workforce of 13,000 qualified personnel, TRE extends its railway customer portfolio to Africa and the world. to learn more visit END



“PSD was established in 1994,” says Derick van Basten, 54, CEO for the group of companies including Central Circuits, Phahama Systems Development and Central Electronic Technologies. “Since then we have grown the number of products that we are the approved supplier of to Transnet Rail Engineering (TRE) to more than 200. The latest edition is the IGBT chopper replacement where we are the main contractor in the consortium of three companies. “We also source and supply components to TRE. We also introduce various improvements the various railway systems. “We have a good relation with TRE and we are also the only local company supplying them with all the different controller cards for the different locomotives,” he adds. “Our niche market is in high voltage applications specifically the railway environment, which is an extremely dirty (electronically wise) environment. “Many years of experience and dedication will bring success in such markets.” PSD is currently doing research and small-scale prototyping on a complete integrated, dynamic test bench for locomotive controller systems.

Located in the heart of Centurion, South Africa’s Silicon Valley, Phahama Systems Development (Pty) Ltd provides a full range of services from engineering development and prototyping to systems assembly. It is a PCB assembly manufacturer, offering a complete solution, from component procurement to surface mount and conventional assembly, as well as final assembly and test. This will enable the user to test the complete electronic system as a whole and to identify faults up to component level on any sub-system or electronic card assembly. In conjunction with this, it is developing a generic controller system that can be used on different fleets. “Our market strategy is to identify potential future problem mainly due to the availability of old technology and components,” van Basten says. “In such cases we will do a feasibility study, limited research and design to be ready when the potential problem becomes real. Another strategy is to take the problem of our clients shoulder and to solve it.” PSD has been in the railway market for more than 15 years and will keep on focusing on this market due to our superb expertise and opportunities in this market.

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