The contract between Bombardier Transportation South Africa and Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) for 240 Bombardier TRAXX Africa locomotives is part of the largest locomotive supply project in South Africa’s history, with overall orders for 599 electric and 465 diesel locomotives from four different suppliers. TFR will use the 240 TRAXX Africa dual-voltage electric locomotives – valued at approximately R13-billion based on the original list price and exchange rates –for its general freight business.
As part of the localisation requirements, the fabrication of 480 bogies required by TFR for the locomotives has now begun at the Durban facilities of Transnet Engineering. Before doing so, however, EN 15085 certification for the manufacture of railway vehicles and components was required.
EN 15085 applies to the construction, manufacturing and testing of welded rail vehicles and their components. “This is the European railway engineering standard and, for Bombardier, as a European OEM, it is a non-negotiable quality standard,” says Baloyi. “For us, therefore, all of the fabricated bogies that we are contracted to build are required to be welded in accordance with EN 15085,” he adds.
The localisation of the railway industry cannot be achieved unless manufacturers of vehicles and components are successfully audited and certified to this code. As TE in Durban we are mandated to comply with EN 15085 for the 1064 project. We cannot comment about the certification requirements of other fabrication companies, except to confirm that it was required as a pre-condition that we are EN 15085 certified.
In addition, before a fabricator can be certified for manufacturing welded railway vehicles, it has to already be operating according to ISO 3834, quality requirements for fusion welding of metallic materials. “And the railway requirements are different again. EN 15085 is a different and more rigorous standard to any of those we have previously implemented,” adds Govender.
Transnet Engineering’s Durban facility has been accredited to ISO 3834 Part 2. Then, late last year, the facility became the first fabricator in the Southern Hemisphere to be certified to the highest level (Certification Level 1 or CL 1) of EN/ISO 15085-2. This certification level is essential for any new build, conversion and repair of railway vehicles or components, including: bogies and under frames; vehicle bodies; draw and buffing gear; supporting frames; wheel-set mountings, axle boxes, spring supports, shock absorbers and vibration dampers; brake equipment; supporting frames for heavy duty vehicles; welded bolsters; fuel tanks; and any safety critical welded component.
“Aligning to EN 15085 involves a mind-set shift, mainly due to personnel changes,” reveals Baloyi. “While ISO 3834 does not specifically require a welding engineer as part of the fabrication team, for example, EN 15085 insists that all welding operations are under the direct control of an internationally certified welding engineer (IWE),” he adds. Baloyi and Govender are both qualified welding engineers, while Baloyi also holds the IWE qualification, as required.
“At any given time, vehicle OEMs such as Bombardier or CNR need to be assured that there is a responsible welding engineer on site to take responsibility. So at least two welding engineers are needed so that the deputy can take charge when the responsible IWE is unavailable,” he explains, adding, “This is a core principle in EN 15085. Certified people with international welding qualifications need to be employed in relevant positions of responsibility.”
Transnet’s Durban facility has CL 1 certification, the highest qualification level of ISO 15085. “Anyone wishing to manufacture components for bogies, cars or platforms, no matter how big the company, must have CL 1 certification as a minimum, because these are safety critical railway components.
“Sub-contracting is allowed, however. If a small company only make one component in relatively small quantities, for example, then a full time welding engineer is not mandatory, but a suitably qualified person needs to be allocated to take overall responsibility,” says Govender.
In addition to the need for personnel taking overall responsibility, International welding specialists are a required to take care of day-to-day production welding. With accreditation applying to five production bays spread across the Durban site, Transnet Engineering will require several Internationally accredited welding personnel to cater for full production welding. “We will also need to have foot soldiers, the Level 1 inspectors, who will be checking quality on a continuous basis on the shop floor. We are in the process of training 5 Level 1 visual testing (VT) inspectors to meet the immediate needs of the Bombardier bogie production stations,” Baloyi adds.
While welding procedure specifications (WPSs) and Procedure Qualification Records (PQRs) are more or less developed as per the welding codes and ISO 3834, there are some differences. “ For example a butt weld PQR does not necessarily qualify fillet welds if there are a significant number of fillet welds during production,” Govender reveals.
“Also, welders need to regularly produce work samples. In traditional welding codes such as ASME, once a welder is coded for a particular weld, he can proceed to the end of the job based on that coding. With EN 15085, the welder also has to produce production test pieces and he cannot be released for production-welding work until these test pieces have passes all of the testing requirements – and the client needs to inspect these results,” she adds.
With respect to welders, Baloyi says the facility is drawing its skills from within Transnet, “absorbing people that are under utilised in our other businesses and training them up for the bogie fabrication work”.
“Transnet artisans are mostly trained in the in-house School of Engineering (SoE) and we find our internal qualifications are well suited to our needs – but it would also be a plus if we could get welders with international welder (IW) qualifications,” he says, adding that the EN 15085 qualification requirements are specified according to ISO 9606 personnel qualifications.
Govender continues: “We do not see a skills shortage in our area and we do not believe that it is so difficult to develop high-end skills in South Africa. We have proved that we can get our welders up to the international railway standards.
Adds Baloyi: “At the starting point of achieving quality welding results, is removing the obstacles to producing good welds. We look carefully at access and welding positions, for example. This is part and parcel of European experience and built into the EN 15085 code. Manipulation needs to be integrated into the production process so that critical butt and fillet welds can be performed in the flat (PA) position, for example. We make use accurate jigging systems and positioners to make this possible,” he says.
On the use of robots, he says that the flexibility offered by a manual welder still outweighs the production advantages of full automation, which is usually not practical. “We are benchmarking ourselves against the production principles used by Bombardier in Europe, and with the same levels of jigging and manipulation, the actual in-situ performance of our welders comfortably matches those of the Europeans,” Baloyi assures.
Says Moopanar: “we are required to make 480 bogies in the contract period. These will be sold internally to our locomotive assembly facility next door.”
Looking further afield, he adds: “EN 15085 certification has opened up export opportunities to manufacture anything in rail. All overseas OEMs – Bombardier, GE as well as CSR and CNR for example – are looking for CL 1-certified fabricators to enable them to meet their localisation commitments. Instead of manufacturing overseas and shipping into Africa, we can now manufacture for the local and export markets, particularly for Africa, where we see significant opportunities,” he Moopanar concludes.