Biz-Community (Cape Town)

18 January 2012

South Africa: Swazi Rail Project Set to Take Off

South Africans and their Swazi counterparts are expected to enjoy various economic spin-offs from the development of a 146km rail line between the two countries.

The Transnet Freight Rail infrastructure project is expected to create many jobs for locals.

"Transnet and Swaziland Railways have agreed to jointly develop a 146km line from Lothair in Mpumalanga to Sidvokodvo Junction in Swaziland as well as upgrading adjacent rail networks in South Africa," said Transnet group chief executive Brian Molefe.

"In doing so it will provide an unprecedented economic boost to the region."

Molefe said the line was aimed at being a coal transport route and would enable freight trains up to 200 wagons in length to travel across the border.

Rail a better option than trucks

He said it was better for coal to be transported via rail as opposed to trucks. This was cost effective for unprocessed minerals and bulk products.

The new line will also handle general freight volumes separate from coal, and will add new rail transport capacity of 15 million tons to the region.

The first trains on the new line are expected to start transporting the products in three years.

The last rail project of this size was the Richards Bay Line, dating from 1976.

"This (project) is of great historical and economic importance, and we are all immensely proud of this fact," said Molefe.

Molefe said the rail line is complementary to Transnet's other large investments in coal transport, including the Waterberg and Eskom's road-to-rail migration programme aimed at moving coal transportation away from the highways and onto rail lines.

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