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Railway Engineering celebrates 21 years' collaborative training with the University of Pretoria and Transnet

With an extraordinary partnership initiated in 1994 between industry and higher education, Transnet and the University of Pretoria (UP) celebrate 21 years of collaborative training and research in Railway Engineering in 2015.
Prof Sunil Maharaj, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT), engaging with delegates – who attended the course on Introduction to Multi-Disciplinary Concepts in Railway Engineering – on real-time solutions within the industry.

As an active player in the growing railway industry in South Africa, the Chair in Railway Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at UP was established to initiate a partnership between industry and the University. This partnership revolves around three major aspects: graduate training, continuing education courses for industry, and railway research.

Continuing Education at University of Pretoria (CE at UP) and the Chair, under the auspices of Prof Hannes Gräbe, hosted an evening event during the first quarter of the year for industry, academic and field experts to come together in a collaborative effort to grow the thinking tank around Railway Engineering in the country.

The event presented an opportunity for delegates of the first intake of Introduction to Multi-Disciplinary Concepts in Railway Engineering for the year, to network with experts, liaise with course presenters and share ideas with key role-players in the industry.

Prof Hannes Gräbe (centre), Chair in Railway Engineering (UP), with CE at UP staff (FLTR) Shamima Mohanlal, Nishana Naran and Nocwaka Combo.

Envisaged that rail will grow and become the preferred mode of transport for both passengers and transportation of bulk commodities in South Africa, the training is specifically geared towards a better understanding of the basic principles applicable to the field, as well as contextual information on how Railway Transport Systems (RTSs) operate.

Prof Sunil Maharaj, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT), attended the event as guest speaker and honorary stakeholder. Joining the discourse about the importance of collaborations between the University and industries, he encouraged more participation and training of industry specialists, emphasising that the Faculty is among the top 1% in the world. He added that the University's strength lies in building relationships with industries and serving them by offering globally competitive courses.

Material and other contributions of industry partners locally and abroad have made it possible for the Chair to broaden its research capabilities and make a meaningful contribution to promote the mode of rail transport. Training is presented by experts from UP, Transnet Freight Rail and the railway industry - introducing delegates to the multi-disciplinary aspects of Railway Engineering.

Mr Satish Roopa (left), Board Member of the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) and former Executive Mayor of the Potchefstroom City Council), in conversation with course leader, Mr Pierre Lombard (centre), and Prof Hannes Gräbe (right).

Among the 84 delegates and guests attending the event, role-players such as Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) Board Member, Mr Satish Roopa, and General Manager of CE at UP, Ms Hermien Dorfling, disclosed their commitment to further collaborative efforts between continued education and railway industry training.

With government announcing that more than R300 billion will be invested in transport infrastructure over the next three years in an effort to expand the country's cargo transport capabilities while reducing road deaths and traffic congestion, the importance of rail transport in South Africa has never been more prominent.

Railway experts and industry role-players (FLTR), Mr Jaap van der Merwe (industry expert), Mr Pierre Lombaard (course leader), Mr Georg Hettasch (industry expert), Mr Dawie Kruger (industry expert), Prof Sunil Maharaj (Dean of EBIT), Ms Hermien Dorfling (General Manager: CE at UP)

Accordingly, Prof Gräbe stressed the significance of skills transfer, teaching and continued education in unlocking the potential required to achieve short- and long-term goals in the rail industry, adding that an investment in research and development will increase the competitive edge that rail has over other modes of transport.


The first scheduled course in Introduction to Multi-Disciplinary Concepts in Railway Engineering was presented from 26-30 January 2015 at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. Further events are scheduled to take place in May and September 2015.

Enterprises University of Pretoria
Having played a profound part in the history of South Africa for more than 100 years, the University of Pretoria boasts a lasting legacy that endures through a cluster of innovative and multidisciplinary services rendered through Enterprises University of Pretoria (Pty) Ltd.


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