Spoornet's upgrade plan to take on road hauliers

Posted On Thursday, 29 May 2003 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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New rail strategy in Eastern Cape to bring heavy haulers on track, and link up with the port and planned industrial zone in East London

Infrastructure IndustryA new strategy to deal with Spoornet's low-density railway lines is on track, with the Eastern Cape government investigating a plan to invest in upgrading the Umtata to Amabele line.

Dubbed a public-public partnership, the plan would see Spoornet and the provincial government working together to restore freight traffic volumes on the low-density line.

The aim is to take heavy-haul traffic off the roads in the area, saving the provincial government large sums of money allocated to the repair and maintenance of the roads.

If the new strategy moves ahead and is expanded across the country, it will signal a shift away from an earlier proposal to spin thousands of kilometres of railway track to private operators.

Almost half of Spoornet's 22000km-strong rail network is classified as "light and low" density, which means there is not enough traffic on the lines for them to be profitable.

The high-density lines tend to be profitable, and have heavily subsidised unprofitable lines, but a decline in traffic on the network has seen Spoornet's general freight business losing money.

There has long been tension over how to deal with the moneylosing lines, with Spoornet management keen to concession some to the private sector and close others down.

However, this would lead to massive job losses, which labour objected to, so a task team of officials from government, Spoornet and labour has been grappling with the issue.

The railway line between Umtata and Amabele once carried more than 19000 tons of freight but has deteriorated significantly, and once upgraded would act as an anchor in a new infrastructure corridor, linking up with the port and the planned industrial development zone in East London.

The profile of traffic carried on the line would shift from coal and woodpiles to timber, agricultural and mining products.

Should the rail infrastructure develop as planned, the railway line could handle more than 1,5million tons.

If this came to fruition, it would reduce traffic volumes on roads in the area significantly, allowing the provincial government to reduce its expenditure on the maintenance of the roads.

Harry Mashele, GM of restructuring, joint ventures and procurement at Spoornet, said yesterday that the issue was being dealt with by the public enterprises department.

It offered significant opportunities for similar partnerships to be developed in other provinces, such as KwaZuluNatal.

"The light and low-density lines are now ring-fenced under a separately managed structure, allowing for full transparency," he said.

An announcement on the new initiative was expected soon.

Mashele that Spoornet was also moving ahead well with its bid to expand further into Africa.

The move by Spoornet and other parastatals into the rest of the continent is likely to be an important factor in driving the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

"We are seeking to continue expanding across the border, with the emphasis now on helping to make Nepad a success.

"We can help ensure there is sufficient rolling stock capacity in several countries," he said.

Spoornet was involved in a number of countries. These included Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho.

Through Comazar, an SAFrench consortium, the rail utility was also involved in Algeria, Senegal, Mali and Uganda.

Projects were already under way in a number of areas, including leading a consortium that recently won a concession to rehabilitate and operate Zambia's railway network.

Spoornet was also still active in Brazil, having sold locomotives there several years ago.


Last modified on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 19:26
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