SOUTH AFRICA: Tracklaying and maintenance joint venture Isithimela Rail Services was officially launched on November 21 by Bombardier Transportation and Strategic Partners Group, an empowerment organisation formed by 12 organisations and individuals representing the interests of 'a large spectrum of previously disadvantaged individuals'.

Isithimela will be responsible for tracklaying on Gautrain, and plans to bid for similar work elsewhere in Africa.

The Gautrain subcontract is valued at R800m, and it is intended that Isithimela will be responsible for track maintenance during the 15-year operational period of the concession. So far Isithimela has laid 7 km of track at the depot in Midrand, and works on the 80 km main line have recently commenced.

The company said more than 230 jobs have been created, with the majority of the employees being local. Bombardier has seconded specialist staff from the UK to transfer knowledge, and Isithimela has taken delivery of two Plasser & Theurer 08/275 3S and 09/32 CSM tampers.

'Isithimela's objective is to build capacity to enable it to execute the trackwork subcontract on the Gautrain and to optimally position it for further business opportunities outside the Gautrain project', said David Moshapalo, Chairman of Isithimela Rail Services. 'Our goal is to furthermore tender for other trackwork contracts on the African continent.'