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Saft onboard battery systems are helping to ensure the smooth operation of South Africa’s Gautrain rapid rail network, which opened its first phase just in time for the start of the FIFA World Cup.

The Gautrain is a 80km link serving Gauteng Province, providing a safe, efficient and reliable service to both commuters and airport travellers in the Johannesburg area.

Phase one of the Gautrain – a 20km link between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport – has just started service with five Electrostar four-car electrical multiple unit (EMU) trainsets supplied by Bombardier Transportation and derived from a UK design.

The remaining 60km of the network is scheduled to open in 2011, completing the Johannesburg-to-Pretoria route.

The Saft battery systems provide reliable onboard back-up power to support emergency lighting, air-conditioning, door operation and communication systems for the Gautrain vehicles in the event of an interruption to the main power supply.

Two 110V battery systems, each comprising 74 of Saft’s specialised nickel-based Matrics MRX80 cells, with a nominal capacity of 80Ah, are installed below the floor of each trainset.

Bombardier Transportation in the UK has manufactured a total of 24 four-car Gautrain trainsets – five for the airport link and 19 for the second phase.

The first three trainsets were completed by Bombardier at its Derby facility, while the remaining trainsets have been assembled locally in South Africa from kits supplied from the UK.

Saft has supplied a total of 48 Gautrain battery systems to Bombardier Transportation as turnkey, installation-ready packages, assembled in rafts complete with control equipment and interfaces to communicate with the train systems.

Saft Matrics MRX batteries are said to be suitable for this type of rapid transit application as they have been purpose designed to deliver maximum performance, reliability and a low total cost of ownership.

They provide the low-maintenance and long-service-life benefits of sintered/PBE technology within a slim, lightweight block battery package that provides a size and volume advantage compared with conventional batteries.

The Matrics MRX design does not suffer from the ‘sudden death’ that can affect some batteries, even in extreme temperatures ranging from -30C to +70C, according to Saft.

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