The first locomotive propulsion and control manufacturing facility in Africa has been officially opened in Johannesburg.

Speaking during the opening ceremony here Thursday, Public Enterprises Department Director-General Richard Seleke said Bombardier, the Canadian planes and trains maker, set up the local locomotive propulsion facility as part of its commitment to supply3.7 billion at current exchange rates) 240 electric locomotives out of the 599 ordered by South African logistics group, Transnet.

In April 2014, Transnet awarded Bombardier a contract for the supply of diesel and electric locomotives as part of a 50 billion Rand (about 3.71 billion US dollars at current exchange rates) contract.

The majority of the locomotives are being built at Transnet Engineering’s plants in Koedoespoort in Pretoria and Edwin Swales in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal Province.

The new 6,000-square-metre facility in Johannesburg will produce Bombardier Mitrac high power propulsion equipment for use in the state-of-the-art Transnet locomotives. The site will be a testing centre for high power traction converters and electrical cubicles and will become the headquarters for Bombardier Transportation in South Africa in October.

The propulsion facility currently employs about 100 people and this number is expected to increase to 200 by 2017.

“Transnet’s successful partnership with Bombardier ought to position our country as a regional hub for further development and growth so that we can expand our businesses into the rest of the African continent,” Seleke said.

Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama said the opening of the propulsions and controls manufacturing facility is a boost for manufacturing in South Africa.

“Bombardier’s production facility is an integral step in driving localisation, transformation and economic empowerment. The successful partnership with Bombardier serves a crucial purpose in enhancing and embedding our Market Demand Strategy and the role Transnet plays in growing our economy,” Gama said.

The Market Demand Strategy is aimed at strengthening South Africa’s logistics backbone and positioning the country’s supply chains to better compete in global terms.

Bombardier Regional President Per Allmer said the company was proud to play a role in the development of South Africa’s mobility evolution and transformation. “We look forward to not only working closely with our South African partners but also delivering outstanding quality and unrivalled reliability to the region with our proven technologies,” Allmer said.

More than 60 per cent of the Transnet contract scope is localized, ensuring investments in local manufacturing capacity, training and further improving the skills development of local employees, while working with local partners to achieve the same objectives.

“We know that by working together with partners like Bombardier, we are building upon the industrialisation of our country. We are doing this by the transfer of skills and knowledge and by forging strong bonds and partnerships with Bombardier,” Seleke said.