Ignore EN 15085 at your peril in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

“The problem is that many fabricators feel that because they are ISO 3834 certified and that there are many similarities between it and EN 15085, there is no need for specific EN 15085 certification. This is not the case and our fabricators, if they want to make the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, must not make this mistake,” he says.

While it is true that EN 15085 is closely aligned to ISO 3834, which defines comprehensive quality requirements for fusion welding of metallic materials both in workshops and in the field, it must be understood that EN 15085 is a product-specific standard for the construction, manufacturing and testing of welded rail vehicles and their components and Alstom’s, CSR’s and CNR’s requirement is that South African companies which will work as its sub-contractors must be certified accordingly.

CSR will supply 359 electric locomotives and CNR 232 diesel locomotives to Transnet, giving them a collective 56% of a tender for the manufacture of 1,064 locomotives. They are earmarked for Transnet’s general freight business, the most important area of its strategy to shift freight from road to rail. Transnet aims to increase general freight volumes to 170-million tons from 82.6 million tons by 2019.

Alstom will supply PRASA 600 passenger trains (3 600 coaches) between 2015 and 2025. The contract includes the construction of a local manufacturing facility. The project, part of PRASA’s quest to revitalise the rail industry, create jobs and provide efficient, reliable and safe public transport, is one of the biggest in rail transport worldwide and is the largest contract ever signed in Alstom’s history.

The total value of both contracts is approximately R100 billion.

Both the Transnet and PRASA contracts have a stringent local manufacture stipulation (60%-70% for the passenger coaches; 55% for the diesel locomotives and 60% for the electric locomotives) affording local fabricators one of the biggest opportunities in South African industrial history.

But Blake reiterates that all parties will insist that local fabricators are EN 15085 certified. “For the Chinese this has a special significance as Transnet initially came under fire for ignoring rumours of dubious quality with respect to the Chinese tender winners who will go to great lengths to ensure that their quality is nothing short of world class,” Blake says.

One of the main quality control measures will be EN 15085, which is an important standard in both Europe and China with a total of 931 manufacturers having been certified in Germany and 360 in China. “These are indeed significant numbers in this limited fabrication sector and South African fabricators should take heed of them,” says Blake.

SAIW executive director, Jim Guild, concurs that any fabricator serious about being part of these initiatives will have to be EN 15085 certified and that the Institute is doing what it can to facilitate local certification “We have been talking to EN 15085 experts worldwide in our pursuit of making the process as easy as possible for local fabricators and we are establishing a cooperative relationship with DVS in Germany which will ensure manufacturers have access to both preparatory advice and EN certification. I urge all those interested to watch the SAIW press and website over the next few months for details,” he concluded.