New high-capacity railroad planned for South Africa

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) plans to build a new rail corridor between Gauteng and the Eastern Cape to help reduce congestion at Durban’s port.

The corridor is specifically aimed at the country’s vehicle manufacturers, and boosting the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ), says DTIC deputy minister Fikile Majola.

“We will now get into another project, which is the development of the High Capacity Rail Corridor between Silverton and Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape. We will build rail lines working with Transnet and private sector partners to ensure that Ford and other manufacturers can transport their cars to reduce congestion at the Durban Port.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the TASEZ in 2019 following an international campaign to mobilise investment into the South African economy. It is one of the ten approved Special Economic Zones spread in seven provinces.

The government has so far contributed R2.5 billion towards the development of the zone, Majola said. The Ford Motor Company invested R16 billion, and a further R4.3 billion in investments is expected from automotive components suppliers who will occupy facilities within the zone.

More than one corridor? 

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has previously said that the government is conducting a feasibility study to introduce a high-speed rail development between Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban.

Presenting to parliament’s select committee on transport on 25 August, Mbalula said that the planned development would carry passengers and freight.

He said that the government is also looking to overhaul its freight-by-rail plans, and is working on an updated rail policy for the country, currently being developed as a white paper.

The redevelopment of South Africa’s rail and freight sector is a key focus of the government’s infrastructure plans over the next 30 years.

On 11 August, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) published a national infrastructure plan, focusing on the government’s significant developments up until 2050.

The DPWI said that by 2050 freight transport should facilitate domestic and cross border movement of goods to enable industrialisation, diversification, trade and development.

“It is proposed that the balance of transport projects need reassessment in anticipation of the shift of cargo off-road to rail. Transnet Freight Rail (should) complete its accounting and commercial separation and meaningfully accommodate third party operators by 2022/3.”

The plan will also see the establishment of both the Independent Ports Authority and a single transport economic regulator by 2022/23, with a plan to integrate rail, road, ports and intermodal hubs and freight villages by 2022/3.

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New high-capacity railroad planned for South Africa