Johannesburg - Transnet intends investing R26 billion to expand infrastructure in the Eastern Cape the next seven years, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
In a speech prepared for delivery in Uitenhage at the launch of Transnet's new dedicated car wagon, Zuma said the Eastern Cape was central to the government's plans to strengthen South Africa's freight transport and logistics structure.
“It is also central to the support we want to continue providing to our manufacturing sector, especially the automotive sector,” he said.
“Government wants to provide more support, in particular to manufacturing centres that suffer from a disadvantage by virtue of their location in South Africa.”
The Eastern Cape and the Port Elizabeth-Uitenhage area were high priority locations for such support, given the existence of the region's manufacturing cluster and high levels of unemployment.
“The Eastern Cape automotive cluster is one of the most important drivers of growth in this region. South Africa's automotive manufacturing sector is one of the country's key foreign revenue earners,” Zuma said.
“In 2012, automotive exports comprised 12.1 percent of South Africa's total exports. A total of R86.9bn in vehicles and components were shipped to 152 various countries around the globe.”
The role that Transnet played was key to that success, in the form of logistics, with the new wagons part of that.
“When I met auto manufacturers here a year ago they expressed their concerns and frustrations to me regarding the transportation of cars. We agreed that a joint solution was called for,” Zuma said.
“I am proud to say that these new wagons, which have been developed and built here in Uitenhage, are the outcome of those discussions. It shows you what we can do if we put our hearts and minds together.”
Around 180 wagons were in service, with around 350 wagons to be built in the coming months.
“These units will mostly serve on the route between Kaalfontein, near Esselen Park, and Durban,” Zuma said.
“Although Transnet has been operating a fleet of car carrier wagons for many years, these units had become out-dated, as industry requirements had changed.”
Old carriers were open-sided, posing theft and maintenance problems, and were not big enough to carry cars such as 4x4s.
“This development also contributes positively to our campaign to promote the move from road to rail in the transportation of goods in order to protect our road networks and promote efficiency,” Zuma said.
“The development of the new vehicle carrier is also testament to the technical expertise and the commitment of all the workers here at Uitenhage.”
The government was encouraged that around 90 young welders had been employed, and 34 men and women students trained in welding, during the wagon construction.
“I have learned as well that the roof section of the wagons, which is the most critical, is managed by a black female supervisor, proving that women can do any job they want to do,” Zuma said.
Transnet was also exploring other initiatives to improve the Eastern Cape and automotive sector's competitiveness. - Sapa