Johannesburg - Transnet intended to increase the rail capacity on the Waterberg coal line from the current 2 million tons of coal a year to 6 million tons a year after completion of the second phase of the expansion of the coal line, it said yesterday.
Construction of the second phase of the expansion of the coal line, which runs between Waterberg and Richards Bay, had commenced and was due to be completed in 2018, according to Transnet’s corporate and regulatory officer, Disebo Moephuli.
The project entails the construction of a 2.8km loop at Thabazimbi and building a new 5km coal line to connect the loops at Bleskop and Norite in North West.
Transnet yesterday launched the first first phase of the expansion of the Waterberg-Richards Bay coal line, which moves coal from the Waterberg coal fields to ports for export markets.
The project entailed the construction of a 1.8km passing loop at Matlabas in Lephalale. The passing loop enables 100-wagon trains to cross without disrupting other trains on the line. The construction of the loop has seen rail capacity between Lephalale and Richards Bay increase from 400 000 tons to 2 million tons a year.
“The investment has resulted in a significant increase in rail capacity, improved operational efficiencies and faster turnaround times,” Transnet said.
Speaking at the launch, Moephuli, who is acting Transnet chief executive while Siyabonga Gama is away, said the passing loop made it possible for Transnet Freight Rail to increase its services from two trains to five a week, without requiring more wagons.
She said Transnet would increase the capacity of the coal line in phases. By the end of phase five of the programme in 2020/21, Transnet would have spent a total of R5 billion on the coal line, she said.
Transnet chairwoman Linda Mabaso said that the investment in the coal line was in line with Transnet’s road-to-rail strategy. “We are taking congestion off the roads... We have the infrastructure and capacity to carry it.”
The expansion of the coal line is part of Transnet’s plans to spend R21.8bn over the next seven years increasing capacity to 81 million tons.
“The investment is in line with the company’s infrastructure investment programme, the Market Demand Strategy… aimed at increasing capacity ahead of demand,” Transnet said.
Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Bulelani Magwanishe, said that the increased capacity in the coal line would also improve intra-regional trade between South Africa and Botswana as it would connect Botswana coal reserves with critical export markets, such as China and India. The Mmamabula and Waterberg coalfields were part of the same formation.