MAY 14 was the closing date for prequalification bids to supply new EMU trainsets to South African Rail Commuter Corp. Formal tender invitations are due to be issued on June 23 for a fleet of five 12-car trains to be introduced on the Johannesburg - Soweto line in mid-2001. Managing Director Wynand Burger hopes to award the contract by mid-1999.

The new stock, provisionally designated Class 9M, is being funded by a R250m loan from Japan’s Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund, to be repaid over the next 25 years. Burger says the order is the first stage of a 40-year ’urban rail modernisation project’, which will see the entire Sarcc fleet of around 4500 vehicles refurbished or replaced.

The plan envisages that half of the fleet will be given a full refurbishment to extend their lives by 15 to 20 years, along the lines of the Class 10M prototype unveiled earlier this year (RG 4.98 p214).

All vehicles over 40 years old will be replaced by new stock, at the rate of 100 cars a year, which should see the last of the existing vehicles phased out by 2050. The combination of new construction and refurbishment is expected to require an annual investment of around R560m. o