NEXT month should see the board of Transnet in South Africa take a final decision to convert Spoornet’s Richards Bay coal export line to ECP braking. Speaking at WCRR in Köln at the end of November, Dr Dave van der Meulen of Spoornet’s Planning & Technology department said that a 200-wagon pilot train fitted in July 2000 with a cable-based ECP braking system had functioned successfully for a year. Describing it as ’amazing technology - you can’t believe it until you see it’, van der Meulen explained that the same cable was used as that provided for distributed power. The equipment ’allows one to configure a long, heavy train to respond as a single vehicle’, he said.

A decision in principle has already been taken at local level, and van der Meulen said ’we are busy preparing for a fleet roll-out’. There will be a two-year transition period, with tenders for equipping all trains called early in 2002.

The equipment on the pilot train was provided by Wabtec, but rival Knorr is expected to compete for the production contract.