RVR commissions sh200m automated track maintenance equipment

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  • Mechanised Ballast Tamper and Ballast Profiler to replace manual track alignment
  • Equipment to ensure precise track alignment, increase productivity 25X compared to manual processes
  • Machines arrive weeks ahead of 20 additional General Electric locomotives 

Wednesday, 16th July 2014 – Mombasa … Regional rail operator, Rift Valley Railways has today commissioned two high capacity railway track maintenance machines thatwill automate and hasten track restoration.

Speaking during the commissioning, outgoing RVR Group CEO, Darlan De David explained that automating the track maintenance process will significantly improve track stability, helping achieve efficiency and much improved cycle times.

The Ballast Tamper and Ballast Profiler machines work in tandem to arrange displaced ballast restore the trackto the technically required geometric alignment at a speed of one kilometer per hour compared to only 40 meters per hour using manual processes.

“Railway tracks require regular maintenance as frequent movement of heavy trains usually unsettles the ballast and configurationof the line. The computers aboard this mechanised equipment automatically corrects track alignment to a very high degree of precision based on data fed into monitorsduring trackreconnaissancetrips”, said Eng. Joshua Pembere, an RVRmechanical engineer and project manager.

The high end equipment is manufactured by Austrian firm Plasser & Theurer, the pioneer and global leader in mechanized railway track maintenance technology.

The commissioning comes days after Rift Valley Railways received an injection of sh6 billion, the final tranche of a sh14.4 billion debt financing package from international and regional lenders.

The loan facility is part of a sh25 billioncapital expenditure plan to turnaround the rail operator that began in January 2012. The five-year investment programme will see substantial investments in improving operating technology and infrastructure, expanding haulage capacity and developing skilled personnel.

Infrastructure improvements financed under the programme include a sh2 billion rehabilitation of 73 kilometres of worn railway track between Mombasa and Nairobi and a sh400 million project to rebuild bridge crossings near Jinja in Uganda.

“Together with the installation of GPRS technology on all our trains these investments have cutcargo transit time between Mombasa and Nairobi by six hours. And we expect to reduce cargo transit time from the port to Kampala by 16 hours through this mechanisation over the next year”, Darlan said.

Darlan noted that RVR has spent more than sh5 billion to upgrade infrastructure since the start of the investment programme 26 months ago but has had to rely on fairly expensive private  sources of finance.

“Co-funding from less expensive public sources in the true spirit of public private partnership would reduce the high cost of private capital that gets reflected in tariffs and speed up the realisation of our common goal of building a robust railway network to boost trade and prosperity in the region”, Darlan observed.

He said all these infrastructure improvements are entered into the balance sheet of government as it is the owner of the railway infrastructure that RVR manages.

Kenyan and Ugandan technical teams will run and maintain the equipment, after a skills transfer conducted by the manufacturers.

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