The Limpopo and Gauteng provincial governments are in discussions to develop and construct a railway link, connecting the two provinces for commercial and public use.
This week, during the Limpopo Executive council meeting, the topic of the rail link was discussed and both parties have reportedly taken steps forward in conceptualising what exactly the new railway line will entail and the purpose it will serve.
Ndavhe Ramakuela, spokesperson for the Limpopo provincial government told IOL the two provinces have been in discussion over the past four months and reached a level stage of planning.
“We have been discussing the project overall so far, in terms of the route, how long it is going to be and all of the logistics that it may require to carry out. We are about to develop the actual plans for the rail link, that is in terms of what it will look like when it's finished, what avenues of business we will explore with it,” Ramakuela said.
“This is in terms of whether or not we will utilise it for the mining industry, the tourism industry and for public transport. I think what we are focusing on is trying to shorten long trips for people, so it will be possible to commute to and from work if they live far away. Making a two or three hour journey in half the time can really help our people.”
The next phase of the project entails identifying possible investors, which according to the Limpopo Provincial government, would likely come from both the private and public sector, in light of the budget cuts from National Treasury.
There is no indication yet as to how many kilometres the Gauteng-Limpopo route will be, but on the plus side, Ramakuela said that most of the terrain they plan to develop is flat, with a few exceptions.
“The route itself is quite flat. We may have to go through a few mountains here and there, but I don’t think we are going to be digging tunnels or any of that, based on the discussions we had so far,” he added.
In light of the vandalism and sometimes sabotage experienced throughout South Africa’s rail network, IOL asked Ramakuela if the issue of security had been part of the discussions so far.
“Yes, it has. We are all aware that security is a major issue and we are developing ways to combat that, ways of securing the network we build.”
Having a rail link connecting the two provinces can only prove fruitful, if administered correctly, given the resource-rich status of Limpopo and Gauteng, where some of the biggest mining operations in the world are carried out.
With a seamless transportation line between the two provinces, operations could prove more productive, but it also could be a knife in the side of the trucking industry, which has grown exceedingly large over the last decade.
The transport and logistics sector account for nearly 10% of the country’s GDP, according to Mordor Intelligence, and is currently valued at over $20 billion (around R376 billion).
Furthermore, South Africa’s role in developing corridors throughout the continent through the intra-Africa agreement may be the motivation the two provinces need to expedite the new rail link and position the country as an African powerhouse once again.