30 September 2013
The problem of coal trucks damaging the roads in Mpumalanga – a key province for South Africa’s tourism industry – will become a thing of the past when the R5.2-billion Majuba railway line starts operating in 2016.
The 68km railway, operated by state transport company Transnet, will connect the province’s coal mines to the Majuba power station.
“Civil construction and earthworks for the development will be completed by the end of October this year,” Andrew Etzinger, spokesman for state electricity company Eskom, said last week. “The line will be able to carry the first coal-loaded train on 31 May 2016.”
Etzinger said the project would yield lower life-cycle transportation costs, improve coal-delivery turnaround times, and enable Majuba to access more coal than is currently the case.
The Majuba railway line has been designed to transport 14-million tons of coal yearly from the Goedgevonden, Vlakvarkfontein, Exxaro, Middelkraal, Kuyasa and Shanduka mines.
The project received a R3-billion loan from the World Bank, with the balance being financed by Eskom.
In his State of the Province address earlier this year, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said there would be numerous social and economic benefits associated with the project.
“Safety on roads will be enhanced by movement of commodities on rail. Larger commodities will be delivered translating into positive impacts on economies of scale, while the running costs for doing business will be reduced due to better conditions on roads,” Mabuza said.
Mabuza said roads that were in good condition would promote tourism in the province, while longer life-cycles would reduce the cost of maintenance.
“The savings from this will be redirected to other priorities. Jobs will be created during the construction process and local people will benefit. It is expected that other economic spin-offs will emerge as result of the rail construction,” he said.
The mining town of Ermelo has been the most heavily affected by the coal-hungry Majuba power station, with three national roads, the N11, N2 and N17 passing through the town.
The mayor of the Msukaligwa local municipality, Sipho Bongwe, said last week that partnerships with Eskom and local mining companies were key to maintaining Ermelo’s roads.
“Coal haulage has adversely affected our roads infrastructure in one way or another. We hope that the partnerships we have started will be sustained and further cemented in years to come,” Bongwe said.