The upgrading and expanding of South Africa's rail network will relieve the burden on the roads, significantly increase the country's export capacity and stimulate further investment and job creation, says Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Speaking at a briefing in Pretoria on Monday, Gigaba said a total of 6 405 kilometres of rail would be replaced on South Africa's general freight, coal and ore lines, increasing the country's freight capacity by 149.7-million tonnes.
"Existing logistics corridors will be expanded and new ones will be established, and 1 317 new locomotives and 25 000 new wagons will be procured [over the next five years]," he said.
"We will be able to increase our exports of coal by over 50%. Our ability to move general freight on rail will have more than doubled in capacity, and Transnet's container handling capacity will increase by 75%."
Catalysts for further investment, employment
Gigaba said that state-owned companies were acting as catalysts for additional investment in the economy.
Infrastructure development was a critical stimulant, Gigaba said, with Eskom planning to invest over R500-billion in the economy over the next five years, and Transnet set to invest over R300-billion over a seven-year period.
State-owned companies falling under the Department of Public Enterprises invested R53-billion in the economy three years ago, Gigaba said; this year they would be investing over R113-billion - an increase of over 100%.
"Our infrastructure state-owned companies are already key providers of employment, and with the additional infrastructure capacity that will be built, [they] will become even more important sources of employment."
By 2017, he said, Transnet alone would support the direct and indirect employment of approximately 30 000 people. The company had also secured R175-million from the Department of Higher Education and Training to recruit and train 1 000 learners to study maritime engineering.
"State-owned companies are playing a leading role in skills development and will be investing over R2.8-billion in the current financial year," he added. "Over the last year, more than 16 000 learners were trained in scarce and critical learning programmes within state-owned companies of the DPE."
Also addressing Monday's briefing, outgoing Eskom CEO Brian Dame said the power utility was "serious about helping black business to bloom", and that Eskom had "finalised the structure of a fund for developing mines to assist emerging black miners".
Gigaba added: "By 2015, we will ensure that over 50% of coal for Eskom comes from black miners."