Rail Development to Expand Africa’s Vertical-Transportation Market

Escalators at Gautrain rail station

The increased construction of modern rail systems and upgrading of existing networks in Africa, due to the growing population and freight volumes, is creating opportunities for vertical-transportation companies. It is estimated that US$48 billion worth of projects are either underway or planned in Africa, with Morocco, Ghana and Nigeria singled as the highest investors in the region’s rail systems. The demand for railway lines and associated infrastructure is being driven by many factors, such as rapid urbanization, regional economic integration and the search for more affordable transportation alternatives.

Railway systems are seen as an efficient option in addressing challenges posed by Africa’s surging population. The African Development Bank says Africa has one of the highest urban population growths in the world in the past 20 years, at 3.5% per year.[1] Projections also indicate that between 2010 and 2015, some African cities will account for up to 85% of the population. According to James Milne, a research analyst for Sullivan & Frost, mass migration could result in the formation of mega cities, mega regions and mega corridors.[2] “As cities in Africa develop into major metropolises, the option of reducing extreme road transport pressures through introduction of urban metro rail systems becomes viable,” Milne said. Similar situations have already occurred in Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria.

“The world’s population is growing rapidly, while at the same time, we have increasing urbanization and globalization. As more and more people need to get from one point to the other, we need better solutions for infrastructure and mobility,” said Michael Ridder of ThyssenKrupp AG Corporate Communications.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator has installed elevators, escalators and moving walks throughout the railway sector. According to the company, the elevators, escalators and moving walks, help to efficiently transport passengers, especially at railway stations. The equipment is intended to maximize efficiency and smooth operation. ThyssenKrupp Elevator’s stop-and-go function for escalators and moving walks enables energy savings by slowing to a stop when there are no passengers. “They start up again when anyone passes through a light barrier,” Ridder explained.

South Africa’s Gautrain railway system is an example of how modern railway projects are expanding the region’s market for vertical-transportation systems. Construction of the Gautrain railway system was done by Bombela Consortium under a contract to design, build, operate, maintain and partially finance the Gautrain project. Bombela’s shareholders include Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd., Bouygues Travaux Publics SA, Murray & Roberts Ltd., SPG Concessions Ltd. and the J&J Group. Bombela says the first line was an airport link between the Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport and two intermediate commuter stations – Marlboro and Rhodesfield. The balance of the project consists of six further commuter stations connecting Johannesburg with Pretoria and Hatfield.

The Gautrain rail system is nearly 80 km long and approximately 15 km of the alignment is in the tunnel. The system includes 16 viaducts, with a total length exceeding 10 km. The rapid-transit system, Africa’s first high-speed rail system, has been developed under the continent’s largest public/private partnerships.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator was contracted to design, manufacture, install and maintain 39 elevators and 49 escalators, which serve as the major support for the passenger- conveyor system for the entire Gautrain rail system. At Sandton, ThyssenKrupp Elevator installed 11 escalators that service the main portal of the 40-m-long station and its emergency evacuation shafts, which also provide emergency personnel access to the station tunnels. The task was to install the 11 escalators from the bottom to the top without coming into contact with any tunnel struts. The installation of the elevators for the emergency-evacuation shafts was challenging, because the average depth of the shafts was 80 m below ground, and working conditions were harsh.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator was able to ensure the safe installation and on-time delivery of the elevators. In addition to Sandton Station, which is located 45 m underground, further stops include the ground-level Marlboro Station and the elevated Rhodesfield Station, which have also been fitted with systems from Thyssen- Krupp Elevator.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator, which has been involved in large rail projects in China, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy, foresees a strong future for the escalator/elevator market as the railway sector expands. “Passenger transportation in railway stations will be made even more flexible by elevators, escalators and moving walks, taking passengers to their destinations comfortably and without waiting times,” Ridder said.

Cairo, with an estimated 17 million people, launched a long-term metro system in the late 1980s, with the last line expected to come on board by 2020. The first three lines are complete, except for the final phase of the 30-km line running from Abbassia through Heliopolis to Cairo International Airport.

Morocco is constructing a high-speed railway line to be completed in 2015. The 350-km line, which will be constructed in phases, has been designed by France’s Systra and Egis. The two firms are also managing the construction works.

The Tangier-Casablanca Speed Rail project will reduce traveling time between the two cities from 6 hr. to 2 hr. and transport an estimated 10 million passengers per year. Morocco is also planning the High Speed Train Light Project and Strait of Gibraltar Undersea Rail Tunnel projects as it moves to reduce road traffic and pressure on existing lines.

In Ghana, two railway projects, valued at an estimated US$6.4 billion, are being implemented to cater to the growing population and increase transportation capacity of minerals and agricultural commodities.[2] One of the projects involves the rehabilitation and modernization of the railway network. The US$1.64-billion project entails the rehabilitation of the line linking Takoradi to Kumasi and construction of a new 800-km standard-gauge line from Takoradi to Hamile under a build-operate-transfer model. R&H railway in South Africa is the project consultant, while Manferoster in Germany is in charge of overseeing the project’s building and maintenance engineering.

In Botswana, a leading diamond producer, plans for the construction of US$10-billion railway line linking its Mmamabula coal field east of the country to Walvis Bay in neighboring Namibia were being finalized as of April.[3] The 1,500-km railway line will transport an estimated 40 million mT of power-station coal annually in the short term and an estimated 115 million mT in the long term.[4] Other countries are also seeking to integrate their economies, hence creating new demand for efficient and cheaper rail transport.

In Eastern Africa, countries are strengthening their economic ties through the East African Community (EAC), a bloc of five countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – working for political and economic integration. A total of 6,100 km of rail links has been approved or has commenced construction in the EAC region, with some expected to be ready by 2020. They comprise 4,700 km of single lines and 1,400 km of double lines.

The projects are part of the East African Railway Masterplan developed two years ago by transportation consultancy firm CPCS Transcom International Ltd.

EAC Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera expressed the need to reduce pressure on the region’s roads and reduce costs. “Poor rail network is causing heavy stress and shortened lifespan for the EAC roads, with implications on maintenance and faster reconstructions,” Sezibera said.[5]

A key project in the EAC masterplan is the Dar es Salaam-Isaka-Kigali/Keza-Musongati railway. The rail system links Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi and is considered critical to the trading bloc in Eastern Africa. It will provide access to landlocked Rwanda and Burundi by linking them to international markets through the port of Dar es Salaam. The project entails upgrading the 970-km Dar es Salaam-Isaka section, then building a new 494-km line from Isaka to Kigali in Rwanda. An additional 197-km stretch from Keza to Musongati, Burundi, seeks to exploit nickel deposits in Burundi and Tanzania. This phase is one of the largest in the EAC masterplan.

Separate from the EAC masterplan, Ethiopia is constructing new rail lines or modernizing existing networks worth US$3.2 billion. The country’s state railway operator, Ethiopia Railway Corp., has signed agreements with two firms for the construction of a 657-km rail line linking the country’s potash mining fields to the Tadjourah port in neighboring  Djibouti.[6] Yapi Merkezi of Turkey will construct a portion of the railway line at a cost of US$1.7 billion over three-and-half years, while China Communications Construction Co. will do a different section of the same railway line at a cost of US$1.5 billion.

Recent trends in the region where countries increased budgetary allocation for infrastructure development could see the potential of Africa’s elevator/escalator market growing even more. “The elevator and escalator market in Africa [is] diverse, focusing on new installations in most of the emergent countries,” Ridder said. This market drives most of the African countries, with infrastructure projects such as airports, railway stations, commercial centers, and office and residential buildings. These investments create opportunities for elevator and escalator companies.

[1] www.afdb.org/en/blogs/afdb-championing -inclusive-growth-across-africa/post/urbanization-in-africa-10143
[2] www.slideshare.net/frostandsullivan/rail-infrastructure-development-growing-in-africa
[3] www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/countries/west-africa/ghana
[4] www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-12/botswana-to-seek-bids-for-11-billion-rail-line-project-for-coal.html
[5] www.iwacu-burundi.org/spip.php?article2933)
[6] in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/28/ethiopia-railway-idINL6E8HRHO420120628
[7] www.google.com/hostednews/afparticle

EW Correspondent

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