Transnet improves on road to rail switch

Transnet tries new formats…..

Troad railerransnet is piloting an innovative rail wagon termed a “road railer” which can use both rail track and the road system, all in further efforts to recover its loss of haulage to the private road sector, enter new markets and to improve turnaround times.   Addressing the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises on Transnet’s third quarter performance, Ravi Nair, Marketing and Operations Manager, said that this was one of the innovative pilot programmes in Transnet’s engineering facilities, which included also a flat rail wagon onto which private investors could invest with their own wagon specifications to meet tailored products hauled by Transnet rail. The meeting was specifically held to study Transnet’s road to rail strategy and progress.  Matters regarding Passenger Rail Agency (PRASA) were not involved.

Automotive industry important

Transnet, Ravi Nair said, were also introducing specialised wagons to meet the greater traffic needs of the automotive industry because of the introduction of SUVs and other wider bodied road vehicles, Ravi Nair said. The improvement of siding facilities for customers with necessary off loading equipment was also being undertaken as part of the general view taken of a strategy to improve the road to rail switch. It was noted that rail traffic with the automotive industry had greatly increased at the expense of road haulage. Nair said that on the whole there had been a 28% improvement in turnaround on the Durban/Gauteng line with an improvement in Duran harbour with new crane installations and container handling facilities.  An average turnaround time of 23hrs had been reduced to 18hrs for the trip.

Gauteng terminal reducing blockage

high-density-container-terminal-picture-credit-getty-imagesRaisile Letibe of Transnet said that the City Deep terminal in Johannesburg was due for further investment in sidings, warehousing and equipment. Throughout Transnet, a principle had been adopted that where maintaining line and signalling that had gone way beyond its age and maintenance was a waste of money, all line, signalling and switching gear was being replaced if maintenance was deemed necessary. Approximately 450 new locomotives were starting to pass through Transnet’s new plant at Kodooesberg, Pretoria, this being GE and South China Railway (CSR) locomotives of which some 100 CSR type had already emerged. Only 10 were built by CSR in China during the training period.

Hauling more

In mining terms, these locos will be able to improve a haul of 75 wagons up to 150 for magnetite, up to 200 wagons for manganese and probably double whatever was required with chrome, all possible according to the different class of locomotive used in the new range. The balance of Bombardier and China North locomotives will be built in Transnet’s Durban engineeringbombardier train works, taking the total number for Transnet freight haulage locos to well over 1,000. Transnet took advantage of a R50bn loan from China to conclude these contracts with the main operators and their BEE constituents, Transnet said. However, as things stood at present there was a general increase of 19% turnabout in mining haulage with increases for steel and cement, agriculture and bulk liquids and a major improvement in automotive products haulage and general manufacturing all recorded.

Freight and commuters

A daily meeting was now held with the Passenger Railway Agency (PRASA) on frequency of needs for commuters and the need for haulage of goods on the same track and the system was working well. There was a common understanding on signalling use and track needs at certain hours in cities and to industrial areas. PRASA were also engaged on their  massive development of commuter locomotives and carriages, or “trains” and the integration of both the needs of Transnet and PRASA were being satisfactorily co-ordinated, Transnet commented. rail sidings Raisile Letibe said that R300m had been invested in branch lines to attempt to keep them in shape for concessionaires when the plan to privatise branch lines was finalised. He said that the matter of branch lines brought Transnet with into contact with many other bodies involved in developmental matters including agricultural development, SEZ planning and rural development generally.

Private investment: branch lines

It was hoped to get the issue of the development of branch lines underway as soon as possible. Opposition members complained that this proposal was five or six years old. Under questioning, Transnet admitted that major “challenges” at the moment were breakdown of locomotives, all of which were now aged and parts had to be especially engineered a bought. Wagon availability was also a problem but both these “challenges” should be addressed by new rail stock. Industrial action and economic conditions contributed to the problems facing Transnet but to a lesser degree.

Rural outreach

Parliamentarians continued to be intrigued with the idea of a “road railer” which served the double purpose to become an off-rail road transport trailer. Nair, in answer to questions on this, said probably the private sector would be called in on road haulage issues to rural destinations and the system was used in many other parts of the world. A prototype was being constructed at the Transnet engineering workshops. Nair said that a number of bi-lateral meetings were being held with SADC countries, DRC, Mozambique and Namibia all with the purpose of improving volumes of haulage, particularly in Zambia where copper could be moved despite that country’s plans to open a rail link to the West Coast. However, the general purpose also was to strengthen economic growth through rail in the Southern Region. MPs all agreed that it was good news that at least one state utility in their portfolio was improving. Other articles in this category or as background Transnet says freight rail operations coming right Operation Phakisa to develop merchant shipping – ParlyReportSA Transnet doing better but resists carving up its assets South Africa remains without rail plan – ParlyReportSA Minister comments on taxi and rail plans – ParlyReportSA

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