Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said the Transnet freight rail turnaround strategy was anchored on partnerships with the private sector in dealing with the challenges associated with infrastructure investment, addressing security and the vandalism of infrastructure.
This was in response to parliamentary questions about Transnet’s freight rail plan – two days before ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula suggested that he would be moved if he did not speedily address the freight rail challenges at Transnet – only for the ANC to backtrack on his statement.
Mbalula told an ANC Women’s League gathering that the South African Reserve Bank had maintained the repo rate and called for the fixing of load shedding and the logistics of the country.
“It says move the heavy vehicles off the road to rail, and that is the policy of the ANC,” he said.
Mbalula then told Gordhan to “move faster on Transnet or otherwise we will move you”.
However, hours later ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said Gordhan could not provide the answers to the challenges facing the rail transport system on his own.
“The fact that a clarion call was sounded on the minister to fast-track policy interventions to address our rail and freight logistics does not amount to a call for his removal.
“We carry an obligation on our shoulders to provide adequate responses to all of these challenges,” she said.
Responding to DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia on the same issue, Gordhan said Transnet had presented its full plan covering all the operating divisions, including freight rail, to the National Council of Provinces.
“The plan is anchored principally on partnerships with the private sector in dealing with the challenges associated with infrastructure investment, addressing security and the vandalism of infrastructure, and the provision of efficient operations for the benefit of the economy.”
Gordhan also said Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) had commenced with the separation of its accounting of rail infrastructure management activities from its rail operations to create the transparency and visibility of accounting information required for regulation by the economic regulator.
“The process of accounting separation is aimed to be completed by October 2023.”
Gordhan also said TFR had done a lot of work and was currently getting systems in place to meet the date.
“Transnet commenced with slot sales as a pilot that will enable the seamless implementation of third-party slots.
“The implementation of the trial is currently being concluded, and the successful bidder had indicated that it will commence operations on July 1, 2023.
“Thereafter, Transnet will publish a network statement and commence with the next round of slot sales, which is envisaged to be open to the market by April 1, 2024,” Gordhan said.
The minister listed progress in fast-tracking private sector participation and time frames in four major corridors – Cape, Container, Central and North –that are at different stages.
Gordhan said details of the interested parties for private sector participation were commercially sensitive.
“This information will be shared once processes have been successfully concluded,” he said.
Meanwhile Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said her department was busy with the rail policy which was geared at dealing with the provision of rail services across the country.
“The Policy is founded on the principle of the modal shift of rail-friendly cargo from road to rail and the need to revitalise the railways to supply a range of industrial supply-chain logistics services.
“The ultimate objective is to upgrade the existing and future rolling stock to ensure that they are better utilised and more volume of cargo moves from road to rail and the resultant reduction of haulage of bulk commodities by road transport,” Chikunga said.
She also said they have started with stringent law enforcements on hazardous chemical cargo to be completely on rail.
“Currently there are law enforcement teams at strategic positions to ensure that truck drivers obey the rules and laws of the roads.
“These provincial law enforcement teams have been augmented by National Traffic Police under RTMC. “They are yielding good results,” she said.