Gigaba unveils plaque at SA's oldest railway plant

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pretoria - Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday unveiled a plaque at the Salt River Engineering Works, the oldest railway plant in the country and the southern hemisphere.

The plant is celebrating 150 years of proud heritage and has been at the heart of South Africa's transport network since 1862.

It is central to the maintenance facilities that support the Sishen-Saldanha Iron Ore heavy haul export corridor and the General Freight Business (GFB) in the Western Cape.

"Salt River's history mirrors that of South Africa, with periods of rapid growth and expansion slowed by economic depressions and political developments, which required it to adapt to new circumstances and finding ways to meet new challenges. And to its credit, it always succeeded - emerging stronger and better equipped to fulfil its obligations.

"With Transnet Rail Engineering Salt River currently going through another rebuilding phase, it is a good time to take inspiration from those that came before and to build on their proud legacy," explained Gigaba.

Salt River maintains Transnet's 7km long iron ore trains - the longest in the world. The plant completed the construction of the Phelophepa II Healthcare Train that provides healthcare to remote communities throughout the country.

Last year, 194 students, studying to become vehicle builders, electrical and diesel fitters as well as welders, were trained at the School of Rail Engineering, which is based in Salt River.

Transnet's R300 million investment in infrastructure improvements for the plant in recent years has reignited passion for railway engineering at Salt River, with Transnet preparing the plant for significant growth following the announcement of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA's accelerated Rolling Stock Programme aimed at refurbishing some 3 860 coaches by 2015.