The South African government has formally invited local and international manufacturers to submit their bids to build 7,224 metro rail coaches, at an estimated cost of R123bn ($15.75bn), as part of its plan to overhaul its passenger rail service.
According to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) the new trains will be built in the country over the next 20 years.
South African transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele said the government has opened the bid to private sector companies to encourage growth and job creation in the country, as well as see a significant change in the quality of public transport as a whole.
"Our rail system has reached the end of its design life," Ndebele said.
"The system, defined in terms of technology, operations, service design and skills, is no longer able to meet passenger expectations and economic demands effectively, and is at a stage where it has to be replaced.
"The trains will be defined by greater passenger mobility, automatic train protection and a high quality of crashworthiness. Carrying capacity is high, they are energy-efficient and very light, largely based on aluminium rather than heavy steel."
Earlier this year, the South African government allotted R5bn ($640m) to PRASA out of a budgeted R137bn ($17.5bn), for the acquisition of new rolling stock, and R1bn ($128m) for the construction of new train depots and signalling infrastructure.
PRASA has also started work on a parallel, three-year, R25.9bn ($3.31bn) investment in high-passenger demand corridors in KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng.
Last year, PRASA approved the first phase of the new R1bn ($128m) rail signalling project in Gauteng in the Lenz-Midway Corridor, as well as the construction of a Central Train Control Centre (CTC).
Two additional tenders were awarded by PRASA for the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal rail signalling tenders by the end of 2011.
Currently, PRASA is implementing a series of Capacity Enhancement Projects like building a rail link for the Bridge City development north of Durban, as well as the Greenview doubling project east of Tshwane.