RAILWAYS | HARBOURS | MINING | INTERMODAL | COMMUTER
For further information, rates and booking details contact Sue Klomp
Tel: +27 72 777 0092 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 – 8 April 2011 EXPO CENTRE – JOHANNESBURG
BOOK YOUR STAND NOW!
The importance of efficient railways and harbours for our continent’s future dare not be underestimated.
As a supplier you need to be at the Railways and Harbours Exhibition - connect, meet and network.
Dave van der Meulen
DESIGN & LAYOUT
Affiliated Associations & Societies
Rail Link Communications cc
P.O. Box 4794 Randburg 2125
Tel: +27 87 940 9278
ISSN 1029 - 2756
The copyright on all material in this magazine is expressly reserved and vested in Rail Link Communications cc,
unless otherwise stated. No material may be reproduced in any form, in part or in whole, without the permission of the
publishers. Please note that the opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publishers of Rail
Link Communications unless otherwise stated.
exceptionally well received in digital
format. So much so that, not only have
we decided to make this successful,
popular, completely free service a
permanent arrangement, but the print
magazine is to be discontinued as
from the current issue. Digital’s the
up-to-the-minute means of doing
things and the way of the future:
environmentally friendly, cost-efﬁcient
- for both reader and publisher - and
with no carbon footprint. You can’t get
more politically correct than that.
The only real loser would seem to be
the post ofﬁce. Sorry guys - to put it
bluntly, you’ve priced yourselves out of
To all our readers - see you on line in
“Taking the train is a remarkably
safe, civilised and enjoyable way to
travel between cities in South Africa
…. perhaps South Africa’s best-kept
travel secret” – this according to “The
Man in Seat 61”, a highly informative
and widely respected world rail travel
guide on the internet.
Well, that was yesterday. Today a box
on the site in bold red capitals warns
prospective travellers: “IMPORTANT
UPDATE: TOTAL SHAMBLES IN
So what happened to those ﬁne words
pre-World Cup; the “legacy” of “world-
class” transport to be maintained, long
after the event? Barely three months
down the line, with intercity train
schedules in shreds, one has to ask:
since when are internal government-
department squabbles allowed to get
away with it?
The annual report of the Passenger
Rail Agency of S A (Prasa) uses very
hard words about the management and
ﬁnances at Transnet, which it blames for
its latest string of misfortunes. Transnet
has hit back indignantly. According
to spokesman Mboniso Sigonyela,
Prasa’s claims are “very concerning as
they are not true and defamatory.”
Where on earth do we go next? The
in-ﬁghting and name-calling show
no sign of ending. Prasa is asking for
a mediator to sort out the impasse,
Export Coal 4
Tubular Track 6
Queensland Journey 8
Grain Trains 12
World: Pete the Pundit 14
Industry Comment 16
Africa Update 18
SA Rail News 24
Mishaps & Blunders 30
Railway Heritage 34
End of the Line 36
Surtees Rail Poised for
Another 60 Years
> Page 2
CFL Only Open in
> Page 18
A Revolution in Rail
> Page 6
> Page 31
> Page 8
S Meyl Services
> Page 28
but how exactly is this expected to
ﬁx something that is clearly going to
take inordinate time and huge sums
Whoever had the bright idea
of separating passenger train
management from freight, and
placing them under two separate
government departments, clearly
failed to anticipate the complications
and pitfalls – no, make that circus - that
would ensue. Like one having to run
on the other’s lines (and pay for the
privilege) and making staff like engine
drivers non-interchangeable. (Instead
of drivers swapping from an outgoing
passenger train to an incoming freight
to get them back to base, a road
vehicle now has to be sent out to bring
them back – or so we hear.)
According to Prasa’s annual report,
long-distance on-time performance
“has remained below 35% …. [and] has
resulted in a 23% drop in passengers.”
It tables a R1.3bn deﬁcit (up 30%) and
has raised the CEO’s salary to R4m
(up 28%). Nice work if you can get it,
as the saying goes. And dare we add
– it wouldn’t happen under private
* * * * * *
Railways Africa, complete
editions of which can be read at
www.railwaysafrica.com - and have
been for quite some time – has been
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 1www.railwaysafrica.com
RA: HOW DO YOU VIEW BUSINESS PROSPECTS, POST 2010?
SRG: Our company is cautiously optimistic of growth in the
short to mid-term. Though we felt the effects of the economic
downturn like everyone else, we were fortunate in that we
have an established client base; mainly blue-chips in the
mining sector, who rely on us for all their railway needs.
Also, demand for our diverse range of rail equipment and
services has grown steadily of late. We have worked hard
over the years to achieve and maintain our reputation as
a dependable supplier of parts and products, for various
RA: SURTEES HAS INDICATED INTEREST IN THE PROPOSED
CONCESSIONING OF BRANCH LINES. CAN YOU
SRG: We are very interested, and are currently investigating
and weighing up options. Already, as things stand, we
carry out the entire rail function on certain stretches of line,
for a number of clients. From our perspective, strategic
partnerships could very well be the key to unlocking win-
win scenarios for running branch lines. Surtees has the
wherewithal, for example, to partner a logistics supplier
meaningfully, but much would depend on speciﬁc
requirements in each case.
RA: ARE YOU CONCERNED AT ALL ABOUT THE LEVEL OF
SKILLS IN THIS COUNTRY?
SRG: Well, yes and no. The country has lost a signiﬁcant
amount of expertise and experience due to various factors,
but it’s not as if we’ve suddenly all become incompetent. At
Surtees we place a high premium on training. For example,
we have one of the ﬁnest training facilities for train drivers
in the country. With three accredited trainers testing and
validating new drivers, we can hardly keep up with demand.
There is certainly enough knowledge and skill to go
round; we simply need a concerted effort to prioritise and
encourage skills transfer.
RA: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BLACK ECONOMIC
SRG: BEE is a fact of life in South Africa and we comply
fully. Naturally, improving one’s BEE status entails - to a
large degree - ﬁnding suitable partners in various areas
of your business, and one cannot always speak out about
them before the fact. We continue to explore empowerment
RA: SURTEES IS THE OFFICIAL AGENT FOR MANY WELL-
KNOWN NAMES IN RAIL PRODUCTS. CAN YOU GIVE
SRG: To start with, we are the Southern African agents for the
popular Trackmobile bi-modial rail shunting units; also for
PENN machine driving gears and pinions, a Transnet Freight
Rail approved product. In addition, we have the agency for
Whiting portable electric screw-jacks, widely regarded as
RA: WHAT ABOUT BUSINESS IN THE REST OF AFRICA?
SRG: We regard developments in sub-Saharan Africa as
truly exciting. As you probably know, we were awarded a
contract, along with Transnet Rail Engineering, to refurbish
Surtees Rail Poised for Another 60 Years
Q & A with Surtees’ Tony Woods
It is ﬁtting - 2010 being a signiﬁcant year in the history of
railways in South Africa - to train the spotlight on the Surtees Rail
Group (SRG). This stalwart of the country’s rail industry celebrates
60 years in business in South Africa, this year.
Railways Africa spent time with Surtees director Tony Woods
at the company’s Heriotdale headquarters on the outskirts of
Surtees’ Tony Woods
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 20102 www.railwaysafrica.com
wagons and locomotives for TransNamib in Namibia. This
includes extensive work on ten locomotives – including
some that have been severely damaged – and we are
pleased to say we are well ahead of schedule. In the rest of
Africa, we interact continuously with various companies in a
long list of countries, among them Mozambique, Tanzania,
Congo-Brazzaville,Cameroon and the DRC. We sell and
lease locomotives and related equipment to clients
everywhere and our artisans, technicians and sales
executives undertake regular visits. We foresee steady
growth and expansion in this area.
RA: TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SURTEES GROUP AND ITS
SRG: Well, it all began as a family business, with Arthur
Surtees and his son Colin in 1950. Surtees Railway Supplies
(SRS), as the company was later called, started out by
manufacturing, stocking and supplying steam locomotive
and hopper equipment and parts for the industrial railway
industry in Southern Africa.
With the introduction of diesel-hydraulic and diesel-electric
locomotives about a decade later, SRS began to import,
manufacture and stock equipment and parts for these units.
By the 1990s, SRS had increased its warehouse space
substantially and added a second workshop, enabling it to
offer specialised manufacturing, reconditioning and repair
facilities for all types of rolling stock.
Today the Surtees Rail Group of Companies consists of SRS,
Surtees Engineering and African Rail and Traction Services.
RA: ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE PASSENGER SIDE OF RAIL
SRG: Yes indeed: we are a registered supplier to the
Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), and provide
a range of important products such as wheelsets.
RA: MUCH HAS BEEN SAID RECENTLY ABOUT RAIL’S
SHORTCOMINGS IN HANDLING FREIGHT. WHAT IS YOUR
TAKE ON THIS?
SRG: In the next few years, as we see it, the performance of
Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) is going to be absolutely critical.
We will gladly support them in any way we can, and I’m sure I
speak for most of the major role-players in our industry. All of
us need to encourage and support TFR in working towards
the optimisation of freight movement on our railways.
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 3www.railwaysafrica.com
Quick, critical decisions are needed from South Africa’s
railway authorities – and they are needed in the very
near future. Inexplicable hesitancy and unwarranted
indecisiveness are losing the country vast sums every day.
With countries like China currently buying as much coal as
they can lay their hands on, imagine the frustration felt by
Mpumalanga mining companies dependent on the railway
to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT). This impressive
facility has been successfully upgraded to a capacity of 91
million tons a year (mta), yet the rail line’s annual haulage is
barely managing 65 to 70mta.
According to Ernst Venter, executive general manager
(business growth) of Exxaro, South Africa’s second largest
coal producer, his company could potentially improve its
revenue by R600 million per annum – together with a hefty
proportional tax contribution - for every million tons of
additional capacity on the railway.
To its credit, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) is pushing hard to
improve its performance and the results are starting to show.
For example, transport of domestic coal from Mpumalanga
mines to Eskom’s Majuba Power Station in Standerton has
grown by 36% from last year’s throughput of 5.8mt.
The Majuba project has seen a consistent weekly average
performance of 155,000 tons in recent weeks, which
culminated in an all-time record of 170,000 tons in week 28.
This project is an important initiative in power generation by
Eskom for the whole country.
COAL LINE AT THE CROSSROADS
TFR acting chief executive
Tau Morwe said this
achievement came about
as a result of collaborative
effort and focus by all
stakeholders involved. This
contributed to improved
train turn around times
reliability, safety and
security, amongst others.
Transnet’s plan to invest
R6 billion on the Richards
Bay coal line over the next
ﬁve years will increase
the carrying capacity
(theoretically) to 81mt by
2015. Group acting CE
Chris Wells does not foresee the parastatal being able to
afford any greater outlay. Hence, some form of private sector
participation is urgently needed to lift the capacity closer to
that of RBCT to ship the coal to an eager market.
The coal mining companies, naturally, are more than ready to
lend a hand. “We have already made a proposal to Transnet
indicating that we are willing to invest in rolling stock to boost
the coal line to the RBCT,” Venter says. Moreover, a coalition
of mining groups is keen to participate in a public/private
partnership (PPP) with Transnet – it’s very deﬁnitely on the
agenda, he conﬁrms.
Ernst Venter, Exxaro executive general
manager (business growth).
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 20104 www.railwaysafrica.com
Class 7E1 (25kV AC) locos heading 200-wagon coal train across the
57m high Umfolozi viaduct.
The Richards Bay coal terminal.
Similar deals involving coal miners and government-owned
railways have worked well in countries like Australia. The only
difference is that the Australians have fewer but larger users,
making it easier to jointly manage a privately-owned rail and
port system. South Africa has in excess of 20 companies
using the coal line to Richards Bay.
Exxaro believes a hybrid partnership of a consortium of
mining groups and Transnet could work, Venter tells Railways
Africa: “Considering how well the privately-owned coal
terminal at Richards Bay is performing, perhaps we should
consider a rail model along similar lines. We believe the coal
line could be owned by a PPP vehicle and that coal-exporting
participants should be allowed to introduce privately-owned
rolling stock to the system.”
He suggests an independent system operator could be
created to ensure competent ﬂow management, aligned with
best practice principles.
Asked if conventional privatisation and the effect of real
market forces would not be the best way to solve freight
movement problems in South Africa, Venter points out that
in practical terms it is not as simple as this: “A mechanism
needs to be created that will provide fair access to the
system for the smaller and bigger players, without some
getting preferential treatment. We believe a well-structured
PPP is the best way to go.”
A potential spanner-in-the-works appears to be the stance
of trade unions. Cosatu has all but declared war at any hint
of privatisation. The South African Transport and Allied
Workers’ Union (Satawu) threatened mass action recently,
in opposition to Transnet’s plan of offering concessions on
branch lines, many of which are out of use anyway. On top
of that ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has been
calling for nationalisation of the mines.
At a time when expansion and growth should be South Africa’s
top priority, especially in the light of high unemployment and
many other economic and social ailments, strong leadership
is called for, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The country
cannot afford the dubious luxury of dithering when it comes
to earning – or losing – valuable foreign currency.
In the case of the coal line to Richards Bay, a good recipe
and all the required ingredients are ready and waiting on
the table. It is high time that government - which stands to
gain millions in tax money from increased mining revenue -
should take the lead and hammer out a mutually beneﬁcial
This dilemma has gone on far too long. Is there nobody out
there with enough nous to close the deal, clear the way for
the mines to optimise earnings, and measurably beneﬁt the
White Umfolozi River
Transnet Freight Rail’s heavy-haul coal line.
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 5www.railwaysafrica.com
Tubular Modular Track (TMT) - railway track with a difference
- is patented as a ballastless system having rails continuously
supported on twin reinforced concrete beams laid on a
specially designed formation. The beams are spaced apart
with galvanised steel tie-bars, the ends of which encircle the
beams, and are therefore not cast into the concrete.
With pre-manufacturing, this track system is made up of
twin reinforced concrete beams, linked with steel gauge-
bars, on which rails are continuously supported.
Tubular Track (Pty) Ltd has installed hundreds of kilometres
in mines as well as at coal-loading and other sidings. The
system has also provided a welcome solution for Metrorail
passenger platforms, where consistent rail-to-platform height
has been achieved.
To insulate the system from shock when trains pass, rubber-
bonded cork pads are placed continuously between the rails
and beams. This innovative system replaces conventional
track laid on sleepers and stone ballast, signiﬁcantly reducing
the cost of maintenance.
The system is fully engineered, tested and quality-assured,
and comprehensive warranties are offered, dependent on
correct installation and maintenance procedures being
The reinforced concrete beams and the formation are
designed by prominent consulting engineers to form an
integral system. Site-speciﬁc designs are prepared to suit
clients’ needs in respect of varying axle loads, operational
speeds and annual tonnages, and are optimised to accord
with prevailing geotechnical conditions.
Track and turnouts are designed and manufactured in
precast modular sections, with lengths to suit varying
applications and handling constraints. Applications include
main lines, marshalling yards, ports, urban light rail, tunnels,
track alongside passenger platforms, level crossings, and
lines in underground mines and at bulk loading sites.
Conventional tracklaying is considered a “one channel of
supply” construction where the critical path is the handling
of material and equipment through a single supply line daily.
TMT can be installed at many points simultaneously.
SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF USING TUBULAR MODULAR TRACK:
• TMT enables installation to be carried out at various
points along the line, thereby permitting accelerated
installation programmes. Logistically, TMT is such that
materials can be delivered to any point at any one time.
TMT does not need to rely on completed sections of the
line being in place before bringing in materials for
• TMT, being pre-cast in modular sections, simpliﬁes
• TMT design reduces rail stresses, formation costs,
construction time and life-cycle costs.
• Sand (in desert environments) does not affect the
performance of TMT.
Extensive testing of TMT by independent experts has shown
that rail stresses are reduced by up to 75% compared with
conventional ballasted track. This is due to the rails being
continuously supported by the concrete beams.
Signiﬁcant savings are to be realised in the earthworks
component as the formation width is narrower, offering up
to 40% savings in construction costs. Formation design
essentially follows the guidelines of Transnet’s S410
speciﬁcation with the exception that the formation width is
reduced to 3m for single track at a gauge of 1,067mm.
TMT was ﬁrst offered to the South African mining industry
In 1989, and the ﬁrst underground installation was carried
out at the President Brand Mine. Since then, some 600km
of tubular track has been installed on properties in the
The ﬁrst South African and International patents were
also registered in 1989. The ﬁrst surface track for freight
trafﬁc was laid at the Consul Glass company in Wadeville
Tubular Track: Revolution in Rail Innovation
Tubular track in Namibia
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 20106 www.railwaysafrica.com
in 1990. This has been followed by many successful
applications, particularly in South Africa, but also in the
USA and Canada. Some of the surface installations carry
more than 2.5 million gross tons per annum, with axle
loads of up to 32 tons.
In 1993/94, Transnet Freight Rail’s world-class Track Testing
Centre was commissioned to carry out comprehensive
practical testing, to validate early theoretical work done by
Ove Arup Inc. At the same time, a control test was carried
out on an equivalent length of conventional track. These
tests validated the design procedure, and demonstrated
very clearly the dramatically reduced stress levels and
deﬂections in TMT when compared with ballasted track.
Further conﬁrmation was obtained from in-track tests, and
on this basis Transnet Freight Rail approved the system for
use in yards and sidings.
In 1995, Transnet Freight Rail approved the installation of
a test section adjacent to a passenger platform at
Braamfontein Station in Johannesburg. This is one of the
busiest commuter stations in the country, with freight and
main-line passenger trafﬁc also passing through. This TMT
installation carries in excess of 15 million tons per annum.
The successful development of TMT turnouts followed.
These have been provided at sidings on the coal export
line and at the Richards Bay Coal terminal, carrying axle
loads up to 32 tons. Again, excellent geometric stability and
reduced maintenance have been achieved. Signiﬁcantly,
these turnouts were constructed with 48kg/m rail and have
carried in excess of 30 million tons.
During 2003, precast modules designed for main-line
(22 ton axle-load) conditions were tested successfully at
the Transnet Freight Rail Track Testing Centre in
Johannesburg. A report on the tests has been prepared
by Africon Engineering International and Transnet Freight
Rail. After simulating a ﬁve-year main-line usage period,
settlement in the system of about 1mm was measured, with
absolutely no damage to the precast modules or the grout
underlying the modules. In-track testing subsequently took
place on a section of the Sishen-Saldanha Ore Line in an
area noted for ground clay. Altogether a million tons of ore
is conveyed over this route every month. To date about
25 million tons have passed over the TMT portion, which
has required no maintenance.
More recently Tubular Track (Pty) Ltd has been contracted
to lay sections of line for Bombardier, a member of the
Bombela consortium which is building the Gautrain
system. The company is also involved in a joint venture
with Central Mining Company Investment Limited (CMCI),
named T-Track Saudi. Tubular Track Saudi Arabia in
conjunction with the local railway authority recently
installed a 900 metre section of TMT on the main-line
between Harad and Al Tawdihiyah in the Eastern Province.
This line carries mainly containerised freight between
Dammam and the capital, Riyadh.
In Namibia, the Department of Transport and consulting
engineers Kleber & Associates have shown their faith in
TMT technology by specifying it for the ﬁrst 25km of the
railway reconstruction between Aus and Luderitz in the
south of the country.
Maintenance is a very costly component in the life-cycle of
any track system. Over time, extensive capital expenditure
in plant and resources is required to maintain ballasted
track, the bulk of the expenditure going into ballast cleaning
and replacement, and tamping. TMT, being ballastless,
requires minimal maintenance below the rails, and
maintenance is not plant-intensive. Expected savings on
maintenance can be up to 60% compared with ballasted
“Ultimately, TMT offers many areas of savings, in particular,
formation construction, rails and maintenance”, says Tubular
Track (Pty) Ltd contracts director Craig Tengstrom.
“Had TMT been in existence 150 years ago, it may well have
been the ﬁrst choice of the world’s railway engineers.”
New platform specification - Platform and coach floor on the same level.
Tubular track at a Metrorail station.
Tubular Modular Turnout at Ermelo -After 360 MGT - Rail Grinding only done once.
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 7www.railwaysafrica.com
MAP GRAPHIC PRODUCED BY BRUNO MARTIN - 2010
Brisbane - Cairns (1681km)
Brisbane - Rockhampton (622km)
MAP GRAPHIC PRODUCED BY BRUNO MARTIN - 2010
Other passenger lines
Kuranda Scenic Railway
QUEENSLAND RAIL NETWORK
Spirit of the Outback
Sunlander / Queenslander
Q U E E N S L A N D
Retirement gives increased opportunities to travel and with
generous fare concessions available, there is no better way
to see more of Australia than taking a long-distance train.
While the Indian Paciﬁc and the Ghan are among the best-
known trans-continental journeys, Queensland Rail (QR)
operates Australia’s largest network of intra-state long-
distance passenger trains marketed under the Traveltrain
brand-name. The choice of accommodation ranges from
the luxurious Queenslander class for the discerning; 1st class
for a bit of luxury without the lavish price tag, and economy
class sleepers and sitters for the budget-conscious.
Australia’s only Tilt Trains, which set an Australian rail speed
record of 210km/h in 1998, represent the most modern
additions although their operational speed is limited to a
QR operates 8,575km of 1,067mm gauge track, of which
1,970km is electriﬁed at 25kV AC.
Our journey on the Sunlander began at Roma Street Transit
Centre in Brisbane, where all northbound long-distance
services depart from platform 10. After depositing our
luggage in our allocated berth 7 in Car B, I had an hour
before departure at 13:30 to have a look at the train. Diesel-
electrics 2320 & 1739 were followed by a baggage car, a
staff car, then dining, lounge and sleeper for the upmarket
Queenslander class, followed by six ﬁrst-class sleepers,
two economy class sleepers, dining car, club car, three
economy class sitters, power car and a motorail carrier with
three cars - 20 vehicles in total. My impression was that the
occupancy rate for ﬁrst and economy class sleepers and
sitter cars was near to full. There would have been up to 14
passengers in the Queenslander class sleeper.
The “lander” trains were introduced in 1952. Altogether
49 coaches were built, making up eight air-conditioned
trainsets. Due to lightly-laid track on the western routes, axle
loads were restricted to 9¼ tons. With regular maintenance
and refurbishing, many coaches have provided nearly 60
years’ good service. The Queenslander was launched as
QR’s ﬂagship luxury train in 1992 on a once weekly return
trip from Brisbane to Cairns. But with the introduction of the
diesel Tilt Trains on the same route in 2003, the Queenslander
and Sunlander were combined into one train. For an all-
inclusive fare of A$784, Queenslander class passengers
enjoy ﬁne dining in an exclusive restaurant car, entertainment
in the lounge car, and dedicated staff who pamper their
guests with a “host of special touches” in keeping with the
ambience of a ﬁve-star hotel on wheels. The Queenslander
class was voted as one of the World’s Top 25 Rail
Journeys by the US-based Society of International Railway
Travellers in 2007 and 2008. In South Africa, Rovos Rail’s
Pride of Africa features on the same roll of honour.
The ﬁrst class “twinette” berth has comfortable day seating
which converts to two fold-down beds, one lower and one
upper. Bedding, pillows and bath towels are included in
the fare. First-class accommodation also caters for single
passengers travelling on their own and includes a coach
with 14 “Roomettes”. Passengers in economy class have
to bring their own bedding, pillows and towels. Each coach
has two toilets similar to the retention type used on aircraft,
and a shower cubicle with hot and cold water (soap and
Departure was right on time, the train immediately entering
a tunnel beneath the city to the cavernous Central Station.
Another tunnel – under Fortitude Valley - was followed by a
Letter From Australia
Swiss by birth, Bruno Martin worked and resided in South Africa for many years. Today he lives in
Queensland, whose 1,067mm gauge railways provide instructive comparisons with those in South
Africa. This is Bruno’s account of a recent journey on the Sunlander - from Brisbane to Cairns.
FAST FACTS ABOUT QR’S TRAVELTRAIN SERVICES:
■ The Sunlander, Brisbane-Cairns, 1,681km, 31 hours,
three times weekly in each direction. Premium
Queenslander class cars are attached twice weekly.
■ Tilt Train, Brisbane-Cairns, 1,681km, 23 hours 55
min, twice weekly in each direction.
■ Tilt Train, Brisbane-Rockhampton, 622km, 7 hours
25 min, daily in each direction.
■ Spirit of the Outback, Brisbane-Longreach, 1,325km,
24 hours, twice weekly.
■ The Westlander, Brisbane-Charleville, 777km, 17
hours, twice weekly in each direction.
■ The Inlander, Townsville-Mount Isa, 977km, 20
hours, twice weekly in each direction.
■ Kuranda Scenic Railway, Cairns-Kuranda, 34km, 1
hour 45 minutes, twice daily in each direction.
■ The Gulﬂander, Normanton-Croydon, 152km,
4 hours, once weekly return journey. Operates
■ The Savannahlander tourist train, operated by
Cairns-Kuranda Steam Railway, Cairns-Forsyth,
423km, once weekly return journey, service
operates only between early March and mid
December, 4-day excursion.
QUEENSLAND JOURNEYQUEENSLAND JOURNEY
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 20108 www.railwaysafrica.com
sedate ride through the suburban stations of north Brisbane
until our ﬁrst stop at Caboolture.
North of Caboolture we noted the most recent new
construction in an on-going process of track improvements.
The most prominent features along this section are the
Glass House Mountains, the remnants of volcanic plugs, so
named by Captain Cook in 1770 because they reminded him
of the glass kilns of his home town in Yorkshire.
We headed for the Club Car where drinks and light snacks
are available at a service counter. The train picked up
speed along another realigned section of track through the
Blackall Ranges, then slowed again around a circuitous
piece of the original alignment and back onto a newer
section as we approached Gympie North - 174km from
Brisbane - our next stop at 16:55. By the time we reached
Maryborough West at 18:18. daylight had faded, and with
an announcement on the intercom that dinner was being
served, we made our way to the diner, not forgetting to place
the “please turn the bed down” sign on our compartment
The menu offered a choice of meat, ﬁsh or vegetarian dishes
at very reasonable prices, all freshly prepared in the conﬁnes
of the galley. Snacks or light meals - or just a cold beer –
could be had in the Club Car until 21:30.
After retiring to bed, it took a while to become accustomed
to the motion but I did fall asleep, so missing seeing the
train run down the middle of Denison Street in Rockhampton
at midnight. This arrangement dates from 1899 when two
separate railway systems were joined together with the
construction of the Fitzroy River bridge. To save the cost
of expensive property acquisition, the track was laid in the
town’s main street.
Although the 622km stretch from Brisbane to Rockhampton
is under 25kV wires, diesel-electric locomotives power the
train all the way to Cairns. When electriﬁcation came in
1989, the 39 class electric units were initially allocated
to perform this duty, but were gradually withdrawn during
2003, rebuilt and are now assigned to hauling coal trains.
Daybreak brought us to Mackay, 964km from Brisbane, with
departure at 06:00. We now entered sugar-cane country
with cane ﬁelds on both sides of the track, as well as
orchards growing tropical fruits: mangos, paw-paws and
avocados. In many ways it was reminiscent of travelling on
the old SAR, and even uncanny, for a voice in unmistakeable
South African English announced breakfast over the
intercom at 7:00.
There were brief stops for passengers at several small-
town stations - this is by no means an express service.
Between Home Hill and Ayr the line crosses the mighty
Burdekin River on an 1,100 metre bridge, the longest on
the route. In Townsville, 1,341km from Brisbane, the train
stopped for 30 minutes during which both dining cars were
restocked. At 12:15 the journey continued and once past
Ingham the line enters the stunningly beautiful region of
world-heritage-listed Wet Tropics rainforest.
After a brief stop at Innisfail, Queensland’s highest peak,
Mount Bartle Frere (1,622m) comes into view. There are
numerous stretches of slow running, particularly north of
Townsville and it is not surprising that it takes 7 hours to
cover the 340km to Cairns; the last 87km from Innisfail to
Cairns alone takes 1hr 45minutes.
Here, in tropical North Queensland the use of narrow
gauge (610mm) railways for cane haulage is very much in
evidence. Six sugar mills operate around 1.000km of track
with cane trains carrying very heavy loads, controlled by
sophisticated operating systems. It is not unusual to see
a cane railway crossing the QR main-line on a diamond
crossing. It is of interest that this northern section of the
main-line was the last to be linked in the piecemeal process
of joining together Queensland’s nine separate rail systems.
This was ﬁnally achieved in 1924, marking completion of
the “North Coast Line” connecting Brisbane with Cairns –a
misnomer, really, seeing the line actually follows the east
coast of Queensland.
Speed ranged from a snail’s pace at times to some brisk
running at an estimated 80km/h in places, perhaps even
100km/h, but generally it was a smooth ride. The train ran
to schedule and arrived around 10 minutes early in Cairns
Diamond crossing: QR main-line and cane track.
Sunlander at Cairns.
QUEENSLAND JOURNEYQUEENSLAND JOURNEY
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201010 www.railwaysafrica.com
SPECIALIST CASTINGS FOR
THE RAILROAD INDUSTRY
SPECIALIST CASTINGS FOR
THE RAILROAD INDUSTRY
Tel: +27 11 842-9303 • Fax: +27 11 842-9710
The Scaw Metals Group (Scaw) is an international group, manufacturing a diverse range of steel products. Its principal
operations are located in South Africa, South America, Canada and Australia. Smaller operations are in Namibia,
Zimbabwe and Zambia. Scaw’s specialist castings for the railroad industry include bogies used in freight cars,
locomotives and passenger cars. Other products manufactured include:
Freight car castings:
• Side Frames • Bolsters
• Yokes • Cast steel monobloc wheels
• Draw-gear components
• Centre plates
Cast steel frames for locomotives:
• Steerable locomotive frames
• Mounting for electrical parking brakes and brakehangers
• Traction motor end shields and suspension tubes in cast
steel, manufactured to customer requirements
Passenger car castings:
• High speed, high stability radial axle bogies for motored
and unmotored passenger vehicles
• Self steering bogies
• Fully machined frames ready for assembly into bogies,
including the fitting of bushings and wear plates
• Integrally cast brake hanger brackets and mounting
for auxiliary equipment
Scaw has produced castings for the railroad industry since 1921
and is a technological leader in this field and has participated in the
development of unique designs such as the cast adaptor sub-frame
assembly used in the “Scheffel” radial axle truck.
Scaw manufactures castings under licence to various licensors, but
is an open foundry with the capability to undertake work according
to individual customer requirements. The company has produced
thousands of sets of steel castings for freight cars for both the local
and export markets. These include side frames and bolsters that
have been approved by the Association of American Railroads for
use on North American railroads.
Scaw supplies globally and also offers nationwide distribution
in South Africa through its strategically located branches
throughout the country.
However, most of the lines require investment in
infrastructure and rolling stock before being able to offer
efﬁcient, let alone ﬂexible services. But it is the only way
forward. If professional logistics operators cannot ﬁnd
efﬁciencies through aligning their existing road-based
services with those lines currently supporting agricultural
products, then the future for rail in the sector is not good,’
According to I-Net Bridge, quoting South Africa’s grain silo
industry (GSI) managing director Dr Anton Dubbe, “the silos
were built to receive grain by road and dispatch it by rail.
In the early nineties more than 85% of all grain was
dispatched from silos to the industry by rail. The present
ratio is lower than 30%, Dubbe says: ‘This means higher
transport costs to the grain value chain, more road trucks
on the national roads, more trucks on silo sites and capital
outlays by silo owners to adopt silos to out-load by road’.
“Also, the grain industry has lost the rail capacity to
dispatch high volumes to export harbours, if opportunities
to export arise. ‘At least 10 million tons of grains are used
locally, implying that a substantial sustained business
opportunity to transport grain by Transnet Freight Rail
(TFR) is lost,” Dubbe says. But while acknowledging
attempts by TFR to improve the grain business, ‘real inputs’
are needed to better the capacity, capability, infrastructure
- lines and rolling stock - and the will to service the grain
industry. ‘Establishing a Grain Desk to co-ordinate and
focus on grain transport by rail might contribute to a better
turnaround in this regard,’ he says.
Transport economics specialist Andrew Marsay, quoted by
I-Net Bridge, says the background to the use of rail in SA
agriculture goes back to the 1913 South African Railways
& Harbours Act (SAR&H). It set out a twofold mandate for
the railway: to operate proﬁtably, and to open up the
country for mining, agriculture and manufacturing. “SAR&H
set about the task with vigour,” Marsay says, “and much of
the rail network as we know it today - other than the main
intercity routes - was built during the next 10 years. The
company succeeded in both elements of its mandate,
though sometimes going to government for additional
funding if it felt that a good economic case existed for
opening up a new area, even though revenues could not
fund the required investment.”
“In this way,” I-Net Bridge explains, “the grainlands of the
Free State, Transvaal and Western Cape, the fruit industry
of the Western Cape, and the Natal and eastern Transvaal
timber industries were successfully developed. But from
the early 1920s onwards, a new transport technology
emerged, threatening what railways had so effectively done
to the ox-wagon, namely displace it with a more effective
mode of transport capable of yielding far wider beneﬁts
even though at higher immediate cost.
“Protective measures were then put in place to protect the
rail market, especially in the agricultural sector. For 60 years,
from the mid 20s to the mid 1980s, rail enjoyed a privileged
position in which road transport was excluded from much
of the business that it could otherwise have undertaken
proﬁtably, he said.
“When the transport sector in South Africa was partially
deregulated in the mid-1980s, the consequence was a huge
drop in rail freight and a competitive advance in the role of
road transport including the agricultural sector. ‘Even bulk
materials such as grain have been substantially taken over
by road transport.’
“Asked about the future of rail transport in the agricultural
sector, Marsay says the railway needs to bring in supply
chain expertise and not operating expertise if it hopes to
retain - let alone win - new business. ‘Transnet appears
to be aware of this and is currently in the process of
concessioning some branch lines - the very ones that serve
the agricultural sector,’ he says. ‘Hopefully private sector
logistics companies, who understand the importance of
service quality above price, may be able to make some of
these lines work better than Transnet can.
AGRICULTURE AND THE RAILWAY
Grain train at Houwhoek, 100km east of Cape Town, behind four class 35 diesels.
“The strongest remaining rail businesses in the agricultural sector are grain in the
Western Cape’s Overberg region and also timber in KwaZulu Natal.” – Andrew Marsay.
Photo: Peter Rogers.
Photo: Paul Ash in the Sunday Times.
Silos at Caledon, 140km east of Cape Town. Photo: Peter Rogers.
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201012 www.railwaysafrica.com
PETE THE PUNDIT’S
BRIEF WORLD WRAP-UP
FUNDING A REVIVED RAIL LINE
People involved with rail heritage in South Africa may ﬁnd
this story instructive:
Campaigners for the restoring of the 19km Colne
(Lancashire) to Skipton (Yorkshire) line, taken up in 1970,
have run a series of special trains to prove the route is
viable. The British government’s attitude is interesting: A
Network Rail spokesman said: “We are broadly supportive
of the project but we are not funded to deliver it so the
scheme does not ﬁgure in our current plans. Should third
party funds become available we would be happy to work
with the funders on progressing the scheme.”
The Skipton, East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership
(Selrap) has been identifying alternative funding sources,
such as a proposed regional growth fund, described as “a
£1bn pot of government money which will allow groups to
bid for money for plans which increase investment, jobs
and growth in their area.” Pennine Lancashire is seen as an
economically deprived area that “needs connectivity if it’s
going to grow,” Selrap says. The group, which believes the
line would provide an essential alternative to existing
full capacity trans-pennine routes, hopes to lobby the
Department for Transport (DfT) to make rebuilding the
line a condition of the trans-Pennine franchise renewal.
Representatives are also talking to private train operating
companies and developers with a track record in
successfully re-opening old railway lines.
UK UNION SLAMS TOILETLESS TRAINS
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ union (RMT)
has described Southern Railway’s decision to forgo toilet
facilities on its latest trains running from Portsmouth to
Brighton as “unacceptable”. Designed to create ‘more
space’ for passengers, the trains are being introduced to the
network in December. Representatives for Southern Railway
deny the move will cause passengers any discomfort,
suggesting they simply use the toilet before boarding the
train and dismissing the suggestion that it is unusual for
carriages not to provide the facilities. A spokesperson also
pointed out that the latest trains will feature “refreshed”
interiors including new seats and ﬂooring, a passenger
information system and ﬂexible spaces for wheelchairs
DRASTIC MEASURES IN GREECE
Organismos Sidirodromon Ellados (OBE - the Hellenic
Railways Organisation, ie the Greek state railway) is a
major liability that provides sub-standard service, says
Prime Minister George Papandreou. OBE currently owes
some €10.7 billion in debts. Transport minister Dimitris
Reppas has announced drastic restructuring that will see
employee bonuses and overtime pay slashed. Loss-making
rail services are to be shut down and a 49% stake in rail
operator TrainOSE is to be sold. Unions have already held
protest strikes against a planned cut in employee strength
from 6,300 to 3,800. Passenger services are to be opened
up to private competition.
LIRR SERVICE CUTS
Some of the most drastic service cuts in the 176-year
history of the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) into Manhattan
were scheduled from 13 September. Weekend service
to nearly a dozen stations has been eliminated, and a
number of morning and evening rush hour trains have been
cancelled or delayed. The service cuts, part of a larger
package of reductions adopted by the Metropolitan
Transport Authority’s board of directors in March, will impact
more than 14,000 commuters. They aim to save the LIRR
$US950,000 this year and $3.8 million annually beginning
next year. The cuts represent only a fraction of the pain that
Long Island commuters could be feeling soon. Fare hikes
are expected to take effect across the MTA in January,
including LIRR ticket price increases of almost 10%.
The LIRR is expected to lay off 98 employees this month.
Though 65 will transfer into other positions. 33 will be out
of work altogether. MTA management has said unions could
help cut the line’s deﬁcit by agreeing to concessions. The
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen says management’s
pleas are “insincere” and come at the same time they are
SPENDING CUTS TO HIT RAIL GROWTH
According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group,
the global railway supply industry can expect “sharply
lower growth” as investment falls in China and Europe.
Commissioned by Unife, the European railway industry
association, the study forecasts that growth in the sector,
which has reached 9% annually in recent years, will fall to
2.4% in the period until the ﬁnancial year 2015-16.
Chinese manufacturers are expected to become an
“increasingly important force” worldwide, with slowing
domestic growth pushing them into exporting their
products. The World Rail Market Study 2020, published on
13 September, has been compiled ahead of the biennial
InnoTrans exhibition, the biggest worldwide railway industry
exhibition, which opens in Berlin on 21 September.
Peter Ulrich, the BCG partner who oversaw the study’s
preparation, says recent years saw high growth in both
demand to use trains and for rail equipment - ranging from
rolling stock to track and signalling equipment. “We’re
coming now into a phase where, based on the very high
baseline, we will still have very high demand but a slightly
slower growth trajectory,” he says. Long-term trends such
as increased urbanisation and greater global trade will help
the railway industry, the projection for slower growth in the
near future is based on signs that the Chinese market’s
growth would slow.
Believed to be Volksrust. Photographer unknown.Believed to be Volksrust. Photographer unknown.
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201014 www.railwaysafrica.com
The building of China’s dedicated high-speed rail network
was accelerated under China’s anti-crisis spending
package, leaving less work for future years. The study took
into account the likelihood that high debt loads in many
“mature economies” would lead them to scrap planned rail
Many of those interviewed for the study said they expected
Chinese suppliers to make a signiﬁcant impact on the
international market in coming years, as they used expertise
gleaned in their own market’s expansion to win export orders.
Signs of this were seen after Germany’s Siemens pulled out
of bidding to supply high-speed trains to Saudi Arabia and
instead joined a consortium with China South Locomotive &
Rolling Stock Corporation.
NZ PUB CHARITY SUPPORTS RAIL MUSEUM
Pub Charity, one of the major gaming trusts in New Zealand,
has granted NZ$400,000 towards the building project of
the country’s National Railway Museum. Fortunately the
library and archives suffered no structural damage as a
result of the recent 7.1 Richter earthquake. However, a
number of shelving units fell over, spilling books and boxes
of archive material.
24HR RUNNING FOR SEVERN’S 40TH
Sharply contrasting with South Africa’s disinterest in
its railways’ 150th birthday, the restored Severn Valley
Railway’s (SVR, UK) 40th anniversary was celebrated in
style. Trains ran throughout the night during a three-day
steam gala from 24-26 September. More than 60 hours
of activities were organised from the start of the event at
07:30 on Friday to the ﬁnal train whistle at 18:00 on Sunday.
By closing time, more than 350 train journeys were made
during the weekend with passenger trains set to run through
the night at 90-minute intervals. More than 5,000 visitors
were expected over the three days.
The number of trains operating on the route was comparable
to a busy summer weekend on one of Britain’s main lines
in the 1950s. Five extra locomotives were brought in from
other lines in the UK for the event. It was a homecoming for
an engine which worked the SVR’s ﬁrst public passenger
trains during the attraction’s infancy in 1970. The Great
Western Railway 2251 class 0-6-0 no 3205 returned from its
present home at the South Devon Railway’s Buckfastleigh
to the Severn Valley after 25 years. It was scheduled to
replicate some of its ﬁrst duties on the SVR by working a
series of three-coach Bridgnorth to Highley shuttle trains
and also trains between Kidderminster and Arley.
Fittingly, in the 70th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain,
a visit by a 4-6-2 locomotive named Manston (Battle of
Britain class dating from 1947) was arranged. The last steam
locomotive built by the Southern Railway, it is now based
at the Swanage Railway in Dorset. Another visitor was the
former Great Western Railway’s City of Truro, which claimed
the world’s ﬁrst 100mph record by a steam locomotive.
CHINESE RAIL TRAFFIC STATS
According to China’s ministry of railways, railway passenger
trafﬁc in August rose 8.1% year on year to 162 million, due
largely to large numbers of holiday makers and students
travelling prior to the school-opening season. During the
ﬁrst eight months of 2010, the country’s railways transported
1.14 billion passengers, up 8.9% year on year, even taking
into account the adverse effect of record ﬂooding during
the recent summer. Persistent heavy rains and the resulting
ﬂoods struck a dozen south China provinces, including
Jiangxi, Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong and Sichuan.
From January to August, railway freight trafﬁc reached 2.4
billion tonnes, surging 12.8% year on year, led by robust coal
transport. China railways transported 1.32 billion tonnes of
coal in the ﬁrst eight months, up 16.4% year on year.
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 15www.railwaysafrica.com
Heavy-haul is the present backbone of railways in South
Africa, as well as in a few other African countries. It is
appropriate therefore to step back and assess heavy-haul
positioning against some challenging metrics that the
author selected from a paper presented to the recent US
Joint Rail Conference on Heavy-haul railway electriﬁcation -
experiences and prospects.
South Africa has two electriﬁed 1,067mm gauge heavy-
haul lines, both commissioned in 1976. Planned before the
1973 oil crisis, both lines initially featured industry-standard
diesel traction. Subsequently, a threatened oil embargo
plus low electricity tariffs stimulated extensive railway
electriﬁcation. Hence they were electriﬁed in 1977, and
the South African Railways and its successors developed
expertise to regularly operate electrically-hauled trains of
20,000 tonnes or more. Readers will be familiar with the
details (the following two paragraphs simply recap pertinent
The Ermelo-Richards Bay Coal Line was commissioned
for 15 million tonnes per annum (mta), initially with diesel
traction, later electriﬁed at 25kV 50Hz AC. Maximum
axle loads were 20 tonnes for wagons and 21 tonnes for
locomotives. Ruling gradients in both directions were
1.52%. The line was upgraded to 65mta in the mid 1980s,
by raising wagon axle load to 26 tonnes, locomotive axle
load to 28 tonnes, laying heavier rail, double tracking,
ﬂattening gradients against loaded trains to 0.625%, and
acquiring new electric locomotives and new 200-wagon,
20,800 tonne trains. Ruling gradients in the empty direction
remained unchanged. The trains still maintain their slender
lead as the world’s heaviest electrically-hauled line. In 1994,
operating costs were benchmarked as the world’s lowest
cost-per-net-ton-km, conﬁrming soundness of design.
The then South African Iron and Steel Industrial
Corporation (Iscor) conceived the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore
line originally as a standard gauge, diesel-traction, heavy-
haul railway. During design, it was drawn into the South
African Railways fold, and built to South Africa’s 1,067mm
gauge. The single-track route was commissioned for 18mta,
initially with diesel traction, but was later electriﬁed at
50kV 50Hz AC. Maximum axle loads were originally 26
tonnes for wagons and 28 tonnes for locomotives. Both
were raised to 30 tonnes in 2002, currently the world’s
highest axle load on less-then-standard-gauge.
This appears to be a resistance point, so train length has
proved the next best option to increase throughput. Ruling
gradients have remained at 0.4% against loaded trains
and 1% against empty trains since inception. Expansion to
60mta is currently under way, by providing more crossing
loops, adding new wagons and new electric locomotives,
and strengthening the traction power supply.
The rest is history. Fast forward now to the present. Both
lines are commissioning new locomotives, class 15E on
Sishen-Saldanha and class 19E on Ermelo-Richards Bay.
A comparison between state-of-the-art in South Africa, and
two other signiﬁcant heavy-haul railway settings, yields
COUNTRIES SELECTED FOR COMPARISON
The author selected two representative settings: ﬁrst the
US, where heavy-haul originated (and where diesel traction
currently reigns supreme) and second China, a relative
newcomer that operates electric heavy-haul. Together, they
to evaluate heavy-haul railways in other
countries, including South Africa. By
using extreme examples, the issues are
The US allows relatively high
axle load, namely 32.4 tonnes
in unrestricted interchange. It is sufﬁciently high to support
an industry-leading load/tare ratio of 5.86:1, a critical
parameter for energy optimisation. Trains are comparatively
short at 150 wagons or less. The power output of
locomotives determines balancing speed under load.
Diesel locomotives compare modestly with electric
locomotives in this regard. With traction motors of
≈640kW at rail, using high adhesion, they achieve 15-
20 km/h on typical 0.8-1% upgrades. Depending on
throughput, this may require up to four tracks at some
sites, for example the Powder River Basin Joint Line, with
400mta nameplate capacity.
China’s economy is set to overtake that of the US,
currently the world’s largest. It is also closely comparable to
the US in physical size, although their populations are of
course vastly different. Along the way, it has developed
the Datong-Qinhuangdao heavy-haul railway, with 400mta
nameplate capacity. The 653km route length features
asymmetrical gradients, 0.4% against loaded trains, and
1.2% against empty trains. Topographically, it is thus
comparable to South Africa’s Sishen-Saldanha line. Its
present 25 tonne axle load is low by global heavy-haul
standards, but balancing speed on long upgrades is a
high 70km/h. It is electriﬁed at 25kV 50Hz AC. As in South
Africa, capacity has grown to several multiples of the
original design, of course off a much higher base. However,
growth pains have been similar, reﬂecting the challenges
of expanding the throughput of an electriﬁed railway.
Problems included absorbing regenerated energy, a weak
external power supply system, and low line voltage.
CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE
The fundamental drivers of heavy-haul system design are
axle load, load/tare ratio and traction motor rating. These
in turn inﬂuence payload per train, the number of trains
per unit time for given capacity, and the required traction
power. The accompanying table compares selected
variables of the US, South African and Chinese heavy-haul
solutions: Note that the parameters are given per traction
motor, to obviate confounding the analysis by locomotive
axle arrangement, train length, and other considerations.
Design of a real railway will of course consider multipliers
such as ruling gradients, number of tracks - single, double,
triple or quadruple - train length, locomotive conﬁguration,
energy supply constraints, and many others.
In a globalised economy, one would expect convergence
among solutions. One might even argue that diesel heavy-
haul has converged. Few would dispute that Fortescue
Metals Group’s new heavy-haul railway in Australia’s Pilbara
represents a model speciﬁcation, featuring 40-tonne axle
load, diesel traction, ECP braking, and other hallmarks of
contemporary heavy-haul. However, the table suggests
that electric heavy-haul solutions have diverged rather
than converged, not only among each other, but also with
respect to diesel traction. In a world where the prospects
of electric heavy-haul are rising, the industry needs to
understand the drivers of convergence and divergence. In
particular, the metrics in the last two lines bear deep thought.
Some Thoughts on Optimising Heavy Haul
Dave van der Meulen, managing member, Railway Corporate Strategy CC
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201016 www.railwaysafrica.com
It must be appreciated that diesel and electric traction are
of different system type. Diesel traction is a closed system,
subject to entropic decay and the need, quite literally, to add
external energy from time to time by way of refuelling. By
contrast, electric traction can function potentially as an open
system: To the extent that it is open, it can interchange energy
with, and even contribute energy to, its environment. Many
heavy-haul railways descend from mine to port, including
those in South Africa. Ermelo’s altitude is 1,645m; Sishen’s
is 1,295m. Both lines are potential net energy generators.
In other words, the altitude of the mines is such that energy
dissipated in maintaining the speed of loaded trains on
downgrades to the ports can be more than sufﬁcient to return
empty trains to the mines. Practice rarely achieves this ideal,
because the entropy of existing heavy-haul systems is high.
Railway electriﬁcation originally provided a one-way energy
supply. Where locomotives were able to regenerate, the
technology of the time did not support returning energy to
the supply grid. Resistors at substations or on locomotives
dissipated any local surplus and, as a closed system, it
was unable to turn a net surplus to advantage. However,
the notion of simply dissipating local surplus energy in
resistors is increasingly untenable. Even energy drawn from
renewable sources incurs the cost of harnessing it.
Matching single-phase overhead traction equipment to a
three-phase supply grid requires the three supply phases to
be connected in turn to consecutive OHTE sections. While
the objective of regeneration is to transfer potential energy
from a descending train to where another consumer can
use it productively, surplus trains and demand trains (or
external consumers) could be some distance apart. They
could therefore be on different electrical phases, linked only
through the external supplier’s grid. Furthermore, surpluses
and demands may occur at different times. Conducting
energy from surplus sites to demand sites thus invokes the
classic logistics challenge of place and time utility.
On-board energy storage in batteries, as on hybrid diesel
locomotives, might have value, if the total system is not a net
generator of energy: If it were, surplus energy would need
to be dissipated or exported. Grid storage should rise to the
need, although some power utilities still seem disinclined
to accept electricity generated by others. However,
contemporary power electronics, and emerging smart grids,
have made it possible to conceive of open traction systems,
whereby energy ﬂows to mutual beneﬁt in both directions
between the environment and trains. A new paradigm is
therefore required - smart total energy management.
It is evidently valuable to minimise system entropy from a
total energy management perspective. Note thus that load/
tare ratio is a function of axle load. The higher the axle load,
the higher the load/tare ratio. The higher the load/tare ratio,
the larger the surplus energy remaining at the end of a loaded
journey to ports, and the less energy required to return empty
trains to mines. Recall also that heavy-haul runs loaded one
way, and empty the other. While it might have been sensible
formerly to provide ﬂatter gradients against loaded trains
than against empty, to regenerate all surplus energy (but
dissipate none in friction braking), requires locomotives to
control the same load on downgrades that they can haul
on upgrades. Up and downgrades should therefore be
approximately equally steep. Excessive asymmetry will force
loaded trains to dissipate potential energy through friction
braking on downgrades, thereby increasing the entropy of
The selected tonne-km/h per traction motor metrics are too
far apart to ignore. South Africa appears to perform at a
higher level than the US, but standard gauge rolling stock
exhibits superior performance to that on narrower gauges.
China appears to play in a league of its own, but its low axle
load trailing stock is passé.
Capital costs have not been considered at all. What could
heavy-haul achieve if all parameters were set to best-of-
breed? A rethink of key heavy-haul parameters following an
open systems approach seems indicated. What magnitude
of axle load and traction motor size might be ideal? Will
acceptance of independent power production and a mature
approach to building symbiotic relations among multiple
energy consumers and multiple sources be required?
Interesting times lie ahead!
COMPELLING INSIGHT FROM ORIGINAL RESEARCH
Commodity Coal Coal Iron ore Coal
Motive power type Diesel 19E Electric
Motor, kW at rail 640 735 735 1,250
Adhesion, % 37.0 31.7 25.7 26.0
Tractive effort, kN 118 78 76 64
Loaded upgrade, % 1 0.625 0.4 0.4
Empty upgrade, % 1 1.52 1 1.2
32.4 25 30 25
Wagon axle load,
32.4 26.0 30.0 25.0
Tare axle load,
4.7 5.0 5.0 5.0
111 84 100 80
Load/tare ratio 5.9 4.2 5.0 4.0
Loaded speed, km/h 19.6 34.0 35.0 70.6
Trailing load, tonnes/
1,056 1,040 1,490 1,217
8.1 10.0 12.4 12.2
902 840 1242 974
17,680 28,549 43,472 68,735
Tonne-km/h ratio 1.00 1.61 2.46 3.89
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 17www.railwaysafrica.com
Benin-Niger Railway and Transport Uniﬁed company
(OCBN), operated by both states. The governments of
Benin and Niger have decided to ﬂoat the operation of the
OCBN railway and its trade dependencies in Niger by mean
of an international offer call.
This process is to be placed in the hands of a private
partner “with a good ﬁnancial base” and proven experience
in railway management. There have been two previous
attempts at creating such a concession - in 2005 and 2008
– but neither was successful. Total Benin-Niger freight trafﬁc
is growing steadily, from 1.04 tonnes in 2005 to over 1.9
million tonnes in 2009. It is expected to grow further with
the development of the major mining and petroleum potential
of the Niger, as well as the agricultural development in
CRCC China-Africa Construction Limited (CAC) and
Sundance Resources Ltd (Sundance) have entered into
a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the
scope, cost and delivery programme for the railway track
and rolling stock needed to support Sundance’s Mbalam
Project in Cameroon and Congo, West Africa.
The MOU binds the parties to work together to establish:
1. Scope, cost and programme for delivery of track and
rolling stock sufﬁcient to support planned output of 35mta
of iron ore from Sundance’s proposed Cameroon and
Congo mines and
2. Terms of EPC contract under which CAC would deliver the
mine rail project.
At the conclusion of that work the parties may enter into a
delivery contract for the mine rail project. Neither party is
bound to enter into the delivery contract if it is not prudent
to do so. The MOU recognises that the mine rail project will
be integral with the mine project itself and the Lolabe port
development project. The MOU also recognises that the rail,
mine and port projects are subject to a range of conditions.
CFL ONLY OPEN IN 2011
The full 424km length of Caminhos de ferro de Luanda
(CFL) to Malanje will not open in December as planned,
but only in the second half of 2011, director of the National
Railway Institute Julio Bango announced early in October.
This is due, he explains, to “some technical, operational and
administrative delays”. The line has been inoperative for 18
years, due to the armed conﬂict. Rehabilitation, which began
in 2005, has involved the reconstruction of 40 bridges and
PRIVATE PARTICIPATION WANTED IN ANGOLA
According to director of the National Railway Institute Julio
Bango, the government of Angola is keen to encourage
private sector participation in the country’s “railway
business”. Addressing the press in Luanda following a
meeting between transport minister Augusto Tomás and the
board chairmen of each of the country’s railways, he said
the government is open to partnerships with private Angolan
and foreign companies wishing to cooperate, provided they
comply with requirements.
There is “no exclusivity for state companies,” Bango
stressed. Opportunities are open for all willing to intervene
in the railways controlled by his institute (NCFA), which is
responsible both for certifying equipment in use and the
licensing of operators.
The railways represented at the meeting were Caminhos
de ferro de Benguela (CFB), Caminhos de ferro de Namibe
(CFN) and Caminhos de ferro de Luanda (CFL)
EXTENDING FROM BENIN TO NIGER
The cities of Niamey in Niger and Cotonou in Benin are to
join forces in ﬁnancing a series of technical studies into the
economic and environmental impact of rehabilitating and
extending the existing 438km Cotonou-Parakou railway
in Benin to Dosso in Niger. The West African Economic
and Monetary Union (WAEMU) is said to be supporting
the studies with $US250 million. In its initial phase, it is
envisaged that the project would be controlled by a joint
Though the rehabilitated line from Luanda to Malanje was officially opened at this
ceremony on 30 August 2008, the start-up date for public service has been put
back to the second half of 2011.
BURKINA FASO NIGERIA
Gulf of Guinea
COTE D’IVOIRE GHANA
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201018 www.railwaysafrica.com
Building the future
gautrain turnout assembly
EGYPT RAILWAYS AUTHORITY PLANS BONDS
According to an unconﬁrmed report in the Al Mal newspaper
on 3 October, Egypt’s National Railways Authority is
considering issuing 10bn Egyptian pounds ($US1.76bn) in
bonds to ﬁnance projects over the next 10 years. The bonds,
which would fund projects worth 60bn pounds, would be
secured by the assets of seven companies belonging to the
state authority. Egypt changed its laws in December to allow
utilities and other quasi-government organisations to issue
Projects under consideration by the government include a
high-speed railway between Alexandria and Cairo (208km)
and a 77km line linking Cairo to Tenth of Ramadan City.
ETHIOPIA’S “MASSIVE” RAIL CONSTRUCTION STARTS
Ethiopia has launched construction on 5,000km of new
railway, to link the capital Addis Ababa to various regions
of the country, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC)
announced on 24 September. According to ERC director-
general Getachew Betru, the project will be tackled in two
The ﬁrst will be the construction of ﬁve lines, creating work
for over 300,000 citizens nationwide, at an estimated cost
of $US336 million annually. In addition, the Addis Ababa
urban light rail scheme project will offer employment to
some 5,000 citizens. Eighteen Ethiopian consulting groups,
together with Chinese company CRCC, are involved. ERC
board chairman Hailemariam Desalegn is quoted explaining:
“the railway will enable the nation to transport 6 million
tones of freight.”
In May 2010, China granted Ethiopia a loan of more than
$US100 million to help ﬁnance the project, which forms part
of part of the country’s ﬁve-year transformation plan.
CHINA TO FUND PAGA LINE
The government of Ghana has secured a $US10.4 billion
dollar concessionary loan from the Export-Import Bank
of China to develop the country’s infrastructure. Out of
the funds $4 billion will be used to extend the Takoradi-
Kumasi railway to Paga on the border with Burkina Faso.
Ghana Railway Authority Chairman Dan Markin says the
agreement in the railway sector is very signiﬁcant because it
marks a new chapter in the country’s railway industry. (See
map on page 18).
CRCC China-Africa Construction Limited was established
earlier this year to consolidate the activities of its parent,
China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) in
NEW RAILWAY IN IVORY COAST
According to Ivory Coast mines and energy minister
Augustin Comoe, construction is to begin in 2014 on a new
railway running some 250km north-westwards from the
port San Pedro to Man, a former rebel-held town. The main
objective is to serve nickel and iron mines in the Guinea
and Liberian border region. In addition the line is expected
to carry about 24,500 tons of timber annually and 45,000
tons of cocoa. Ivory Coast is said to be the world’s
largest cocoa producer. “The west is overﬂowing with
nickel, manganese and iron,” the minister told the press.
“We’re looking to transport about 22 million metric tons of
minerals a year.” He hopes to boost the contribution of
mining to the nation’s gross domestic product from 1.5% to
10% by 2020.
Infrastructure in the region deteriorated following a 2002
armed conﬂict that split the country into a government-
held south and rebel-controlled north. Studies prior to
this estimated that the cost of the proposed line would
be about $US1.8 billion at that time. “There is no more
conﬂict, elections are going ahead, so we are assuring
investors it is now safe to begin exploiting minerals here,”
says minister Comoe. Companies including BHP Billiton Ltd
and ArcelorMittal, which have operations in neighbouring
Guinea and Liberia, are potential investors in Ivory Coast,
the minister suggests.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)
Flashback: Martin Welzel captured this scene at Lubumbashi in 1991. LocoFlashback: Martin Welzel captured this scene at Lubumbashi in 1991. Loco
1419, then some 30 years old, was an ex-South African Railways class 32 (GE1419, then some 30 years old, was an ex-South African Railways class 32 (GE
U18C1, 1-Co-Co-1, 1,975hp). The electriﬁcation, which covered 858km andU18C1, 1-Co-Co-1, 1,975hp). The electriﬁcation, which covered 858km and
dated from the 1950s, was one of the world’s early 25kV AC systems.dated from the 1950s, was one of the world’s early 25kV AC systems.
Double-headed 0-4-4-0 Mallets taking water: another of Richard Grönstedt’sDouble-headed 0-4-4-0 Mallets taking water: another of Richard Grönstedt’s
evocative recent photos of the railway in Eritrea.evocative recent photos of the railway in Eritrea.
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201020 www.railwaysafrica.com
de Desenvolvimento do Norte (CDN) and the Central
East African Railways (CEAR). CDN holds the operating
concession for the 872km North Mozambiquan line from
Entre Lagos in Niassa province to the Indian Ocean port of
Nacala in Nampula province.
CEAR holds the concession of the railway system in
Malawi, which currently comprises 797km of line. The CDN
and CEAR rail systems meet end-on at Entre Lagos.
The acquisition of SCDN will provide CVRD with much of
the necessary logistics infrastructure for transporting the
output from the second phase of the Moatize coal project
development. The Moatize coal deposit has proven and
probable reserves of 1.087 billion tonnes of coal and the
project includes an open pit mine operation. Moatize 1 has a
nominal production capacity estimated at 11 million tonnes
of coal - 80% metallurgical and 20% thermal - with start-up
expected in 2011.
In the ﬁrst stage of development, coal will be transported
by the Sena railway to the port of Beira. In the second
phase, coal will move from Moatize via a new rail link to
Malawi and thence along the Northern Mozambique line to
the port of Nacala.
BORDER LINKS FROM LIBYA
Libya is optimistic that the new standard gauge line
currently under construction from Benghazi to the country’s
western border at Rass Ajder will be extended eventually
to connect with Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer
Tunisiens (SNCFT - the Tunisian National Railways). This
would entail building some 170km of route inside Tunisia
to reach the present railhead at Gabes. Unfortunately the
existing 422km line from Gabes to the capital – Tunis - is
metre gauge, so through services will not be possible. Some
of the 268km Tunis-Sfax section has been realigned and
the 3-hour expresses are reputedly the fastest metre gauge
trains in the world.
On Libya’s east, a 350km extension of the new standard
gauge line is planned to Tobruk from Benghazi. Beyond
Tobruk, the formation of a long abandoned (World War II)
standard gauge railway extends some 140km to Egypt’s
western border at El Soloum, endpoint of a 560km line
UPGRADE OF MALAWI RAILWAYS PROMISED
Speaking at the opening of the new rail extension from
Mchinji to Chipata in Zambia on 27 August, Malawian
Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) has entered into
contracts with the government of Liberia for the construction
of an integrated railway and port system for transporting
the production of iron ore from Simandou in Guinea.
KENYA TO DEAL WITH SQUATTERS
The Kenya Railways Corporation has secured World Bank
funding of $US11 million to move squatters who have
encroached on its land in Nairobi. Up to 5,000 households
living on the railway reserve in Kibera are affected. The
reserve land extends 30 metres on either side of the track.
Studies along the railway have established that 4,500
commercial and institutional structures are involved.
Action is expected to commence in June 2011.
The squatters, according to Kenya Railways managing
director Nduva Muli, are the greatest impediment standing
in the way of moves to improve the urban railway system
in Nairobi. Trains currently move at a maximum 20km/h
through Kibera – 50-70km/h less than the optimum. “Rift
Valley Railways can only pull half of their freight to Kibera
station because there is too much slippage on the tracks -
because a lot of waste is dumped there,” Muli told a meeting
of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya.
The relocation action plan devised by the corporation and
the World Bank is to be implemented in three phases at a
cost of $33 million. The ﬁrst phase will involve the acquisition
of land for the squatters living in the Mukuru slums on the
eastern side of the railway. This will make way for the ﬁrst
part of the improvement project, the building of a line to the
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
In Kibera, it is planned to build high-rise residential houses
for the squatters and a wall along the length of the reserve
boundary, Muli says.
VALE BUYS 51% OF SDCN
Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) has purchased a 51%
stake in Sociedade de Desenvolvimento do Corredor do
Norte SA (SDCN) owned by the Mozambiquan company
Insitec SGPS SA. SDCN in turn holds 51% of Corredor
Vila de Sena
Cabora Bassa Dam
1500 300 450
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201022 www.railwaysafrica.com
president Professor Bingu Wa Mutharika (who chairs the
African Union) said his government would ensure that
the 810km of line to the Mozambique border will be fully
rehabilitated and upgraded to provide full connectivity to
the port of Nacala. This he said would enable the people of
Zambia and Malawi to beneﬁt through cheaper transport of
agricultural, mineral and manufactured products. He called
on the private sector in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique
to take advantage of the line in enhancing trade.
Speakers at the ceremony included Zambian president
Rupiah Banda and Mozambiquan transport and
infrastructure minister Paulo Zucula, who read a speech
on behalf of president Armando Guebuza. President Banda
appealed to Central Eastern African Railways (CEAR) in
Malawi, as well as Zambia Railways, to ensure efﬁciency
in operations of the newly commissioned Chipata-
Mchinji railway line. “If efﬁciency erodes this service, it will
discourage potential users of this huge investment,”
President Banda was quoted saying.
Zambian communications and transport minister Professor
Geoffrey Lungwangwa and his counterparts from Malawi
and Mozambique, Sidik Mia and Paulo Zucule respectively,
signed a tripartite regional agreement on the railway route
from Chipata via Malawi to Nacala.
The Chipata-Mchinji project was initiated in the late 1970s.
Construction began in the eighties but work on the Zambian
side was discontinued due to lack of funds. Work resumed in
2006. It is hoped to extend the line westwards from Chipata
to the Katete district and later to the northern part of the
The commissioning of the new line attracted diplomats,
traditional leaders and other important dignitaries.“Today,
Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique have done one more
signiﬁcant thing to materialise the vision of the generation of
our freedom ﬁghters,” Mozambiquan minister
Zucule told them.
NAMIBIAN WAGE INCREASE SETTLED
Following several weeks of dispute, TransNamib and the
Namibia Allied and Transport Workers Union (Natau) have
signed a new wage agreement. Employees in the so-called
A band will receive a 10% increase - 1% less than the 11%
that Natau originally asked. Employees in the B band are to
get a 9% adjustment, and C band workers will receive 7%
- 3% less than Natau wanted. Employees will receive one
month’s back pay and a transport allowance of N$370 - up
N$70 from N$300, but N$50 less than Natau asked. As from
16 September, TransNamib increased its contribution to
the medical aid of A band employees from 66.6% to 80%.
General secretary of Natau John Kwedhi urged workers to
increase their productivity: “The customers out there are
the only source of income for the company. If they are not
satisﬁed, the company will die.”
TransNamib CEO Titus Haimbili said that the institutional
culture of the company needs to be addressed: “We must
work together in transforming TransNamib from public to
a fully ﬂedged commercial entity.” According to Haimbili,
TransNamib’s salaries have gone from being 30% below
the market benchmark to 20% below.
“My debt towards the employees is thus partially washed
away. When you are in ﬁnancial difﬁculties, don’t start
cutting on salaries. Start elsewhere. While a hungry
employee is an angry employee, a motivated employee is
a productive employee.”
Thermitrex (Pty) Ltd
Tel: +27 (0)11 914 2540
Malawian Railways train arrives at Chipata in Zambia.
GE U20C (formerly Spoornet class 33) diesel at Karibib in June 2010. More than
40 years old, these Co-Co locos are rated at 2,150hp. Photo: John Batwell.
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 23www.railwaysafrica.com
SA RAIL NEWS
SA LOCO BIGGEST IN UK MUSEUM
The largest single exhibit in Glasgow’s new Riverside
Museum will be ex-South African 4-8-2 class 15F no 3007.
Its transfer onto the premises – ahead of the ofﬁcial opening
next year – was scheduled for late September 2010.
According to a BBC report –
“Built in 1945 in Polmadie, Glasgow, the 15F mountain class
locomotive spent all its working life in South Africa before
being brought home in 2007. The engine worked for 40 years
pulling the Blue Train from Johannesburg to Cape Town until
1988 when she was mothballed.
“The locomotive was brought back to Scotland by transport
giant FirstGroup, which is founder patron of the Riverside
Museum Appeal. Since 2007, it has been undergoing
extensive restoration work. Sir Moir Lockhead, chief executive
of FirstGroup, said: ‘It is a privilege for First to help return
part of our proud engineering heritage to Scotland. Its return
to Glasgow will give new generations the chance to marvel
at this wonderful example of the rail revolution Scotland
gave to the world. Glasgow’s transport collections are of
international importance and it is ﬁtting that the mountain
class locomotive will be at the heart of the new museum.’”
[It is true that 3007 was among the locos that worked
trains (including the Blue) but this was only over sections
at the outer ends of the route, and they were displaced by
electriﬁcation during the ﬁfties. Nowhere near 40 years, to be
precise - nor was their run anywhere near the total 1,500km.
SIMON’S TOWN LINE REPAIRS
The single track over the rocks from Fish Hoek to Simon’s
Town (6.3km) has been closed for 12 months, following
washaways caused by heavy seas early in November 2009.
According to Metrorail’s Western Cape newsletter Blits, work
to restore the line commenced on 15 September 2010:
“The railway is supported and protected against the sea
by seawalls. The seawalls have been protected against
direct wave action over the years by old concrete sleepers
which were placed against the wall, forming a haphazard
revetment. However, this protection has not always been
effective, leaving portions of the seawall exposed - resulting
in erosion and compromising the structural integrity of the
wall and safety of the line.
“Metrorail appointed Perstedge Retief Dresner Wijnberg
(PRDW), specialist port and coastal engineers, to design
suitable coastal protection structures to stabilise the seawall
at two locations, one north of Long Beach and the other at
the Marine Oil site. Ms Lindsey Bungartz, spokesperson
for the environmental management plan (EMP), said an
engineered rock revetment, consisting primarily of Table
Mountain sandstone, will be established to stabilise and
protect the wall, thereby offering a more permanent solution
and replacing the old sleepers.
“An EMP for the construction has been approved by the
department of environmental affairs and development
planning. Relevant permits have been granted by the
integrated ocean and coastal conservation department
of environmental affairs. Environmental Resources
Management (ERM) has been appointed as the
environmental control ofﬁcers to ensure that the EMP is
adhered to. ‘Construction will be ongoing for approximately
four months. The rock will be transported to site by road and
rail in order to complete the construction activities as quickly
as possible,’ said Bungartz.
“For public safety. The Marine Oil and Long Beach sites will
be fenced from the public for the duration of the construction
activities. Access to Long Beach itself will not be affected
by the activities. Ms Riana Scott, head of marketing and
communications, said: “We look forward to completing the
works timeously so that normal train operations can resume
to Simon’s Town.”
PMB STATION UPGRADE
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has
commissioned a refurbishment of Pietermaritzburg’s historic
station in conjunction with business in the area and the
Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from a Natal Government
Railways train here in 1893, while on his way to Pretoria. A
passenger objected to his presence in a ﬁrst-class carriage.
After refusing to move, he was thrown off (by conductor
Marius Weyers in the ﬁlm Gandhi).
The incident prompted him to remain in South Africa and
sparked his campaign against racial discrimination.
On Sunday 3 October, members of the Mahatma Gandhi
Committee went to the station to help pick up litter and
clean the area ahead of a visit by an Indian delegation.
Msunduzi municipality speaker Babu Baijoo said plans are
in place to revamp the station and turn it into a “thriving
business hub”. He said that there are plans to make the
precinct a transport node for buses, trains and taxis.
In addition, there are to be upgrades of business and
residential components in the area.
“We will be looking at synergistic activity outside the
station in terms of commercial development in the area,
as well as inner-city housing,” he was quoted saying.
“There will also be private development around the area to
enhance it.” Because it is a historic site, there are also plans
for a museum.
The introduction of a business express train between
Pietermaritzburg and Durban is still under consideration,
Bijoo says. “If we get a business express between the two
cities, we may be able to reduce some of the load on the
N3 highway. People would be able to park their cars in
Pietermaritzburg, do their business and then come back.
For this to work, we need a station to support it, such as
having waiting-room facilities and an Internet cafe. This is
what we are hoping for.”
A technical and political team was set up a month ago to
address the planning. “This is a plan that can be achieved.
If all the partners, including local businesses in the area,
South African Rail News
Seawall restoration near Simon’s Town. Photo: Peter Rogers.
SA RAIL NEWS
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201024 www.railwaysafrica.com
In the ﬁnancial year ending 31 March 2010, the Passenger
Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) reported an after-tax loss of R13bn
(2009: R1bn) on revenue of R5.6bn (R4.2bn), with operating
expenses amounting to R6.7bn (R5bn). Personnel went up
R546m due to former Transnet subsidiaries Autopax (buses)
and Shosholoza Meyl (intercity trains) being transferred
to Prasa. Energy costs, ie electricity, added nearly R100m
to operational expenses. CEO Montana’s annual salary
reportedly rose R904,000 (a 29% increase ) to R4m (2009,
HIGH-SPEED STUDY TO START
The process of testing the market for a high speed rail
link between Durban and Johannesburg would start in
October, transport minister Sbu Ndebele announced on 27
September. Launching Transport Month at Bridge City in
Durban, he said:
“By next month, we will commence with the dual process of
concept development and testing the market for a period of
six months.” The proposed high-speed railway between
Durban and Johannesburg would cut transport times
dramatically, he said. He was also quoted saying the project
is “crucial” because the Durban-Gauteng corridor is the
“busiest in the southern hemisphere”, both in value and
[Somebody in Australia might just take issue with this claim
JOHANNESBURG-DURBAN : BUSIEST SA CORRIDOR
Edward West, writing in Business Day about the proposed
high-speed railway from Johannesburg to Durban, repeats
the claim that the Durban-Gauteng corridor is “the busiest
corridor in the southern hemisphere, both in terms of
value and in tonnage and is the backbone of SA’s freight
transportation network. Key nodal points within the corridor
are the Port of Durban, Cato Ridge, Harrismith and City
Deep in Johannesburg.”
[Not quite sure how nodal points are deﬁned, but what about
Maritzburg – a fairly big provincial capital along the way?
Also, the Johannesburg-Durban railway has never gone
anywhere near Harrismith, nor would Harrismith ﬁgure if
one drew a straight line between the endpoints. Newcastle,
which West does not mention, might make the grade. –
Editor Railways Africa.]
WHICH 1ST HIGH-SPEED TRAIN IN SA?
Speaking at the launch of Transport Month at Bridge City in
Durban, transport minister Sbu Ndebele said South Africa
had invested R40 billion in passenger rail infrastructure and
begin to have a single vision, we should be able to achieve
this quite fast. We want to maximise the station and the
precinct effectively.” He said they would be working
closely with stakeholders, including the Mahatma Gandhi
Committee. David Gengan, the public relations ofﬁcer of the
Mahatma Gandhi Committee, says the organisation wants
the station to be declared a national heritage site.
Copper overhead traction wire is being replaced with
“Tiger wire” on the Kroonstad - Bethlehem line, resulting in
extended occupations on this section. The replacement
material is a stranded cable comprising some aluminium
and some steel. Unravelling this for recycling would be
very time-consuming, apart from which the low copper
content means that it has minimal value at scrapyards.
GAUTRAIN BENEFITED FROM THE WORLD CUP
Abey Mokgwatsane, summing up the beneﬁts of the World
Cup in South Africa, observes on www.bizcommunity.com:
“Billions of Rand were invested in the economy for
infrastructure, training, and production, and so on. Add
to that a deadline where all this investment needed to be
realised. That hardly happens in African countries, money is
invested but it hardly reaches its intended purpose. Would
the stadiums, Gautrain, airport developments have been
completed at such a pace if there was no deadline? I doubt
it. It could more likely have been squandered by the swarm
of consultants that feed off our inefﬁciency.”
PRASA SEEKS PARTNER
In an endeavour to raise some of the funding needed to
ﬁnance operations and expansion, the Passenger Rail
Agency of SA (Prasa) would like to ﬁnd a “strategic equity
partner” for its subsidiary Intersite which manages the
property portfolio, encompassing commercial and retail
sites at and adjoining stations. The total value of this is put
at R236 million. Intersite currently holds R124m in the form
of loans from Prasa.
“Selling a stake in Intersite forms part of the rail agency’s
new ﬁve-year strategy,” Engineering News reports, “to
transform itself into a commercially viable entity and
strengthen its balance sheet.
“The government’s subsidy of R3.2bn last year (2008-09:
R2.5bn) was not enough for the agency’s needs and it had
to use its own reserves (R1.5bn). ‘The rail agency has
depleted its reserves resulting in a weak balance sheet,’
Prasa CEO Lucky Montana said”. He added that the
group’s management has embarked on a cost-containment
SA RAIL NEWS
Station on a curve: Pietermaritzburg at night.
The new Century City station in Cape Town. Prasa ran at a loss of R13bn in the last
financial year. Photo: Malcolm Bates.
SA RAIL NEWS
RAILWAYS AFRICA September - October 201026 www.railwaysafrica.com
SA RAIL NEWS
services. This included the R25 billion spent on the Gautrain
project, “South Africa’s ﬁrst high-speed train.”
[Minister Ndebele needs to reread his history book:
• 1978: Test train reaches 245km/h near Johannesburg.
• 1984: Metroblitz 160km/h scheduled express
(Johannesburg-Pretoria in 42 minutes).
• 2010: Gautrain 160km/h airport train.
• 2011: Gautrain 160km/h scheduled express (also
planned to do Johannesburg-Pretoria in 42
BLUE TRAIN IN THE OFS
An out-of-the-ordinary Blue Train excursion on 4 September
comprised a visit to Bloemfontein. The customary class 14E
dual-voltage electric was in charge – one of these being
very rare on the Free State main-line The train departed
southbound from Kroonstad at 08:24 and Jacque Wepener
was ready at Hennenman to photograph the visitor.
TFR AUCTION 17
TFR auction #17 closed on 7 October 2010. Peter Bagshawe
“The auction included 294 wagons of a variety of types
situated at various places around the country, 14 coaches a
nd 24 cabooses (all at Port Elizabeth), and other
miscellaneous items. There were also four lots of used
railway line (350 tons of 60kg/m along the Saldanha-Sishen
line; 17.52 tons of 48/50kg/m at Vereeniging and 29.376
tons and 31.104 tons of 48/50kg/m, both lots at Leeuhof.
“The coaches were: 4669 (according to list, but photo
The cabooses were: 14006/14315/14317/14322/14505/1450
“The condition of the coaches and cabooses was very poor,
with a lot of rust evident.”
CAR RENTAL AT GAUTRAIN STATIONS
Three car rental companies are soon to be represented
at all Gautrain Stations, which are recognised as being
strategically positioned. According to one of the operators,
the facility will “add a new dimension to public transport
and provided fast accessibility to areas between OR Tambo
International Airport and Pretoria.”
BRIDGE CITY UNDERGROUND STATION, DURBAN
Edward West, writing in Business Day, says Durban’s new
Bridge City Station, “being built under the R5bn Bridge City
shopping, commercial and residential development situated
between four townships north of the city centre, is the ﬁrst
in a roll-out of new stations.”
[Assuming West is talking about Metrorail (after all, four new
Gautrain stations opened this year), Bridge City is not the
ﬁrst new station to come on stream in 2010. Century City
in Cape Town opened in June, as did Rhodesﬁeld near
O R Tambo airport and the new stadium station in Durban.
“The underground station, already 50% complete, involves
3km of underground track and will be the ﬁrst underground
railway station in SA.”
[What about Sandton, 40 metres below ground? Or
Rosebank, which is probably closer to ﬁnishing than Bridge
City? - Editor]
“The development, which will also be a bus and taxi hub -
the eThekwini municipality is investing more than R150m
on a taxi and bus rank - is planned to ease transport
problems and provide convenience for about 613,000
people living in the KwaMashu, Phoenix, Ntuzuma and
September 2010 saw the last Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe pulling out of George -September 2010 saw the last Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe pulling out of George -
behind a class 32 diesel. Photo: Allen Duff.behind a class 32 diesel. Photo: Allen Duff.
Two class 34 diesels head a George - Voorbaai freight across the MaalgatenTwo class 34 diesels head a George - Voorbaai freight across the Maalgaten
bridge between George and Mossel Bay, on the route of the discontinuedbridge between George and Mossel Bay, on the route of the discontinued
Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe. Photo: Allen Duff.Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe. Photo: Allen Duff.
SA RAIL NEWS
September - October 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 27www.railwaysafrica.com