RITES eyes opportunities in South Africa (Lead)

June 6th, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, June 6 (IANS) RITES Ltd, the consultancy arm of the Indian Railways, is in talks with South African railway authorities to develop tailor-made solutions for their requirements, a senior RITES official said. “We have been in exploratory talks with them in certain areas,” Sumit Sinha, executive director of RITES’ expotech division, told IANS Friday on the sidelines of the three-day annual Africa Rail conference here.

“We have come to South Africa to renew our contacts and explore new opportunities here,” he said. “We can have a win-win situation for both (South African company) Transnet and RITES.”

RITES’ move comes even as Lucky Montana, South African Rail Commuters Corporation chief executive, said local passenger train services would collapse soon if there was no government investment.

Montana said weak state investment meant the Metrorail services were using trains which are on an average 40 years old to carry hundreds of thousands of passengers every day.

“Beside a 67 percent subsidy on train tickets, the government does not contribute much to the maintenance or infrastructure of the country’s rail services,” Montana said.

Against this backdrop, companies such as RITES, which has had success in other African countries with similar projects by using refurbished Japanese coaches adapted to local conditions, could assist South Africa.

RITES is active in Angola, Senegal, Mali, Tanzania and Mozambique for the past 30 years, but in South Africa, matters are still at a discussion stage, said Sinha.

In Mozambique and Tanzania, the Indian government-owned RITES has won a 25-year concession to upgrade railway tracks and rolling stock devastated by decades of civil war.

It will run freight and passenger traffic in Mozambique and Tanzania over this period, and hand over a certain percentage of the revenue to the two governments. At the end of the contracted 25 years, the full assets will be returned.

RITES is also in talks with authorities in Congo, Benin and Ivory Coast.

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