REPORTS surfaced last month that Union Carriage of Nigel in South Africa is among companies shortlisted to supply a fleet of 60 locos for Sweden’s 479 km iron ore route from Luleå to the Norwegian port of Narvik, operated by Malmtrafik i Kiruna AB. The deal could also include around 670 ore wagons, and a tender for five prototypes was due to be awarded by the end of the month. These are likely to be designed for 30 tonne axleloads.

Decisive factors in the deal are a little unusual as it is linked to a possible contract for Saab to furnish South Africa’s defence forces with 48 Gripen high performance fighter aircraft. Although this order is not due to be signed until later this year, there are suggestions that the loco and wagon deal may be initialled to ’encourage’ South Africa to agree the aircraft contract. A case of raising the stakes, perhaps? o