Transnet Freight to start carrying Botswana coal

TRANSNET Freight Rail (TFR) is to start carrying the first coal exports from coal-rich Botswana to Durban next month.

The agreement could indicate progress in TFR’s international business strategy of using bilateral and multilateral rail agreements to build a unified railway system in Southern Africa.

A similar agreement reached in August with Mozambique and Swaziland would more than double coal and magnetite exports through Maputo — to 6-million tons this year — TFR’s executive manager for international business, Nyameka Madikizela, said on Thursday.

TFR is using three regional networks to push its programme of unified rail operations.

These are the North West Corridor — which integrates South Africa’s rail operations with Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia; the North-South Corridor — which encompasses Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the Maputo Corridor which has brought South Africa, Swaziland and Maputo into greater alignment.

On the North West corridor, under its new agreement with Botswana — likely to be signed in the next month or two — two 35wagon trains a week would move from the Morupule Colliery near Palapye to Durban. Morupule is owned by Debswana.

“We intend to run two test trains from Morupule to Durban before May 1, we will use their locomotives to Krugersdorp and then change to ours,” Ms Madikizela said. The need to change the locomotives had to do with gradient changes on the route that required heavy hauling power.

TFR was also considering the possibility of upgrading the axle load of the rail line from 18.5 tons per axle to Transnet’s standard load capacity of 26 tons per axle, she said. This could in future allow for Transnet’s heavier locomotives to be used for the whole trip instead of changing drivers at the border.

The initial focus on Botswana was due to the country’s “vast coal reserves” and the future development of other mines as mining exploration programmes advance to production.

Coal analyst at XMP Consulting Xavier Prevost said the move was “interesting” since Botswana had been wrestling with its logistics challenge to move its vast coal reserves. The cost of moving coal to Durban would be high because of the distance as well as the high handling costs for coal at the Durban port.

The Botswana government has discussed moving its coal either through Maputo or through Walvis Bay. A test was done by logistics company Grindrod last year to study the feasibility of railing coal through Maputo, CEO of Grindrod Freight Services Dave Rennie said.

TFR had hoped to sign the North-South Corridor agreement in February, but Ms Madikizela said discussions were taking longer than anticipated. This project will move millions of tons of copper from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia by rail to the port of Durban.


Source : BDlive

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