Transnet boost for SA coal exports

2 August 2013

State company Transnet is to introduce a 200-wagon rail service running directly from coal mines in Mpumalanga province to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal in KwaZulu-Natal, significantly boosting South Africa’s coal export capacity.

The new service will enable Transnet to shift over 81-million tons per annum in the next financial year, should the coal be available.

Under Transnet’s R300-billion market demand strategy, the plan is to raise the corridor’s capacity to 97.5-million tons a year by 2020.

“Decreasing the handling processes of trains will allow for higher reliability, which will equate to improved sustainability and service predictability,” Transnet Freight Rail chief executive Siyabonga Gama said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This is part of the scheduled railway philosophy introduced by Transnet Freight Rail two years ago.”

The new service will bypass the Ermelo yard leg of the service, which will significantly reduce train handling processes.

Before the introduction of the service, trains were built at the Ermelo yard through a process involving dispatching 100 empty wagons to the mines for loading and then returned to the Ermelo yard to be built into 200-wagon trains, which were then sent to the Richards Bay terminal.

This process was cumbersome, involving significant train handling and shunting to couple and de-couple wagons, according to Transnet Freight Rail.

The new project will drastically reduce cycle times from an average of 58 to 41 hours for locomotives and a decrease from 63 to 48 hours for wagons.

It will also increase weekly railed export coal capacity from the current 1.4-million tons per week to a potential capacity of 1.85-million tons, equating to a 30% increase in current capacity, said project manager Pragasen Pillay.

“The number of export coal trains per day will increase from 25 to a potential 32 trains. And moving into the fourth quarter of this year, we will see 34 trains per day,” Pillay said.

Transnet Freight Rail will now be poised to deliver in excess of 2-million tons per week for the domestic and export coal sector – an annual delivery of 96-million tons.

The service will additionally free up train slots, which can be used to address other domestic demands, such as coal for Eskom’s Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga.