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Transnet’s main Durban rail line down for weeks following floods

Containers in iSipingo Prospecton blown away by heavy winds and flooding scattered around the area and inside flooding waterPicture; Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Containers in iSipingo Prospecton blown away by heavy winds and flooding scattered around the area and inside flooding waterPicture; Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 20, 2022

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Durban - South Africa's state-owned rail and pipeline company, Transnet, said this week that the estimated time to resume operations on its main railway line, which was severly damaged between Durban and Cato Ridge during the floods, is seven weeks.

This comes after a visit by Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan and Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel.

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The state visit was to receive a progress report on damages sustained at Transnet’s Durban operation during the floods and an estimated recovery time.

According to Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi, rail operations between Cato Ridge and the north and south coast lines were halted.

The damage caused was mainly because of landslides and mudslides in areas where nearby communities were built too close to the railway lines.

“Rail operations remain suspended between Cato Ridge, the north and south coast lines. The section between Cato Ridge and Durban, on the mainline, has been impacted by severe wash-aways and mudslides, particularly in areas where communities have encroached on the rail reserve.

“This highlights the dangers of communities building too close to the railway line. The focus is on cleaning up operational areas and assessing which areas require extensive repairs. This is 95% completed. The preliminary estimated time to resume single-line operations on the mainline is seven weeks,” Shezi said.

IOL asked Transnet in Durban what goods are moved on the affected lines and is awaiting their response.

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In addition to rail damages, Shezi said the bulk of damages occurred at two lanes on Bayhead Road going into the container terminal and the Island View Precinct.

Shezi said two lanes would be opened to ease the flow of traffic, while a longer-term solution would be to open the canal bridge and widen Bayhead Road.

“The next phase of the port's rehabilitation is expected to be completed at the end of April, and the long-term solution is expected to be completed over the next 12 months,” she said.

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The area of discussion is a vital one for the city, as it allows the movement of goods into and out of Durban, which is then transported throughout the country.

Earlier this year, Transnet proposed an expansion of the Durban port by four times its current size, but the city’s chief strategy officer, Adrian Peters, said the expansion would come with its own pros and cons.

It is unclear at this stage how those plans have been affected by the recent flooding, which has claimed more than 400 lives in KZN.

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