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Powering South Africa’s first high-speed rail link

11/25/2012 ABB Media

The 80-kilometer Gautrain Rapid Rail Link will bring high-speed commuter communications to Gauteng province, the smallest of the country’s nine provinces, but the most important economically and the most densely populated.

Gauteng is the heart of the South African economy. It creates one-third of South Africa’s gross domestic product and is home to around 10 million people, one-fifth of the population. It also includes the country’s largest city (Johannesburg) and administrative capital (Pretoria), as well as the OR Tambo International Airport, the busiest in Africa.

By providing the province’s large population with a high-speed transit link, the government expects the Gautrain to stimulate economic growth and job creation by improving commuter mobility. It will also reduce traffic and carbon emissions on congested highways.

ABB is playing a vital role in the project by providing advanced traction solutions that will power the entire 80-km line and the 24 electric trainsets that will operate at speeds of up to 160 km/h.

The power to the line solution comprises one main feeder substation, which steps down power from the grid to the correct voltage, and five autotransformer paralleling substations located at intervals along the track.

The entire ABB solution is designed with exceptionally high levels of reliability, redundancy and safety to ensure 99.99 percent availability. The equipment also has to withstand exposure to pollutants, high levels of seismic and lightning activity, and operate within a large temperature range and at high altitude.

Each of the 24 four-car electric trainsets is powered by an ABB traction transformer and a traction motor manufactured by ABB for train provider Bombardier Transportation. The Gautrain is a variant of Bombardier’s award-winning Electrostar train, which is widely used in the United Kingdom and powered by ABB traction transformers and traction motors.

ABB has modified the transformer design to meet specific requirements of the Gautrain for high acceleration, low noise emissions and adaptability to the African climate. Chief among these modifications is a huge increase in power of around 40 percent to boost the train’s acceleration.

The Gautrain is scheduled for completion in 2011, with part of it to commence operations this year in June.