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barriers has been questioned, but full
barriers capable of trapping a vehicle
between them pose a greater hazard.
Our thoughts are with the driver of
Metrorail train 2309, the 06:35 from
Bellville to Eerste River, doomed to
relive the nightmare of the Blackheath
collision every time his train nears a
crossing. One doesn’t easily forget
crashing into a minibus ﬁlled with
children and seeing them hurtling
through the air to their almost certain
death, nor seeing the carnage
afterwards at ﬁrst hand.
Getting freight off the roads and back
to rail is a South African priority: that’s
ofﬁcial. And here’s a new angle on
the theme. According to independent
researcher Peter MacKenzie, up to
45 road deaths could be saved every
year in Australia if 15% of road freight
were transferred to rail, with a potential
saving to the nation of more than A$1
billion. In addition, 275 people or
more could be saved from paraplegia,
quadriplegia, brain damage and other
serious, long-term disabilities.
“This is not a competition with the
trucking industry; we are simply
advocating optimisation of the best
mode of transport for each type of
freight task,” Australasian Railway
Association (ARA) chief executive
Bryan Nye emphasises. “Our vision is
that where there is a viable rail network,
such as between the capital cities,
freight is transported by an efﬁcient
rail network to integrated intermodal
terminals where it is forwarded to its city
location by smaller trucks, preferably
avoiding peak periods of congestion.”
Other aims common to both Australia
and South Africa have to do with
level crossing accidents, a subject
highlighted by the recent horror
collision at Cape Town’s Blackheath.
In the view of Rail Safety Regulator
executive Carvel Webb, interviewed on
South African Rack Railway 2
Open Day at Cape Town 7
Industry Comment 10
Africa Update 12
SA Rail News 18
Mishaps & Blunders 24
Railway Heritage 30
End of the Line 32
South African Rack
> Page 2
> Page 16
Green Light for
> Page 7
No cash, no trains
> Page 32
Another Side of
> Page 10
> Page 23
radio, driving around a lowered boom
is like running a red trafﬁc light, with
every chance of hitting a 30-ton truck.
Let’s develop this analogy. To eliminate
trafﬁc lights, one has to build ﬂyover
bridges - or reconstruct intersections
as trafﬁc circles. Circles being
inapplicable to level crossings, we are
left with bridges. Now a single bridge
costs in the region of R40 million, so
replacing every road intersection in the
country is right out of the question. For
similar reasons, every level crossing in
the country isn’t going to be replaced
with a bridge tomorrow.
In any case, if a minibus driver can
approach a crossing on the wrong side
of the road and drive round lowered
gates and into a train, what is to stop
another minibus driver from going up
a bridge approach-ramp on the wrong
side of the road and colliding head-on
with something coming the other way?
We might be able to replace one or
two crossings with bridges, but which
are these going to be, ie how does one
choose? The busiest, in terms of vehicle
totals and number of trains, are not
always those with the most accidents.
As for protective measures - no matter
how ingenious, they are never going to
deter people determined to dice with
death. Railway practice of using half
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 1www.railwaysafrica.com
NOTABLE ENGINEERING IN MPUMALANGA, 100 YEARS AGO
With railways in this country celebrating a century and a half of service this year, Bruno Martin
delves into their colourful history and tells us about:
SOUTH AFRICA’S ONLY RACK-ASSISTED RAILWAY:
Waterval Onder to Waterval Boven
From June 1894 until April 1908, a small ﬂeet of steam
locomotives, each equipped with a cogwheel drive, was
assigned the duty of assisting trains on a rack-rail section
between Waterval Onder and Waterval Boven in the Elands
River valley. This section of the Eastern Line (“Oosterlijn”),
linking Pretoria to Delagoa Bay, has been South Africa’s
only rack-assisted railway, and one of only two on the
By comparison with other rack-assisted railways worldwide,
the incline in this case was neither overly steep nor was it
of any signiﬁcant length, but features nevertheless as one
of 175 locations listed where a rack system was installed.
Whereas many rack-assisted railways in Europe and the
USA have remained in operation since their inception more
than 100 years ago, the rack operation in South Africa
lasted only a little under 14 years before it was discarded
and replaced with a more easily graded alignment.
RACK AND COGWHEEL SYSTEM
In terms of this system, known sometimes as a rack-and-
pinion railway, the driving mechanism of the locomotive is
equipped with a cogwheel whose pinions or “teeth” mesh
with a “toothed” bar or “ladder” mounted midway between
the running rails. As the pinion teeth engage and mesh
with the rack-rail, the tractive force is transmitted from
the driving axle to the cogwheel and the locomotive is
propelled forwards or backwards as required.
The assistance of a rack and cogwheel system is essential
on a steep incline, where the adhesive weight of a
locomotive is insufﬁcient to apply enough tractive force on
the driving wheels without slipping excessively on the rail
. More importantly, to avert the risk of a locomotive
- with its trailing load - sliding out of control during the
descent, the cog wheel drive is crucial for maintaining
braking power. The cogwheel is either ﬁxed to the axle of a
SOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAY
CCOMPILED BY BRUNO MARTIN 9/2008
Original (built 1964)
(built 1905) (built 1965)
WATERVAL ONDER DEVIATION
WATERVAL BOVEN -
(190 metres) (316 metres)
15 November 1949.
Location of major railway accident
Elands River Bridge
Elands River Falls
Contours at 100 metre intervals
Elands River Falls
WATERVAL ONDER DEVIATION
WATERVAL BOVEN - NZASM rack railway
CCOMPILED BY BRUNO MARTIN 9/2008
twinning of tunnels and electrification 1964-1966.
Track duplication to Ondervalle, alignment modifications,
Original (built 1964)
(built 1905) (built 1965)
(190 metres) (316 metres)
15 November 1949.
Location of major railway accident
Elands River Bridge
Contours at 100 metre intervals
Original NZASM line opened 20 June 1894.
Distance: 12 km (7 miles 40 chains).
Deviation opened 1 April 1908 (single track).
Gradient: 1-in-50 compensated, 125-metre min. radius curves.
Distance: 6.77 km (4 miles 37 chains).
rack section (system Riggenbach).
Ruling gradient: 1-in-20, with 3382-metre long
Starting point of the rack.
Section of the original rack preserved at Waterval Boven.
SOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAY
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 20102 www.railwaysafrica.com
SOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAY
set of driving wheels, or sometimes attached to a separate
axle. In the case of more complex locomotives, a second
motion mechanism, entirely independent of the adhesion
engine, is activated to drive the cogwheel(s).
The assembly of the Riggenbach system3
, as used
between Waterval Onder and Waterval Boven, comprised
two parallel-running, vertically-mounted steel ﬂanged
plates, spaced about 100mm apart, with the intervening
channel spanned by a row of closely-spaced, tapered
rungs. The arrangement of the rungs gives the Riggenbach
system its distinctive ladder-like appearance, but its
complexity - particularly for turnouts and crossings - made it
expensive to build and was prone to rungs becoming loose
CONSTRUCTION OF THE EASTERN LINE
The Netherlands South African Railway Company
(Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorwegmaatschappij
– NZASM) was formed on 21 June 1887 with a loan of 2
million Guilders raised in Holland and Germany. While
the railway surveyors started setting out the route from
Komatipoort, construction on the section from Delagoa
Bay in then Portuguese East Africa (present day Maputo
in Mozambique) progressed rapidly so that around 80km
was completed by December 1887; but then work was
suspended until a dispute over the precise location of the
boundary with the then Transvaal Republic was resolved.
Construction was resumed in 1891 but the malaria-infested
region west of Komatipoort claimed the lives of hundreds
of construction workers. The ﬁrst locomotive crossed
the bridge over the Komati River on 14 May 1892 and by
20 June the line was opened as far as Nelspruit (92km).
From 1 June, 1893, the line was in use as far as Alkmaar.
Further sections were opened in stages until on 20 January
1894, it was opened to Waterval Onder. Beyond, rugged
terrain presented the greatest engineering challenge of
the entire route. Passage up the Elands River valley was
blocked effectively by a sheer rock wall, with the river
tumbling 95m over the cliff face. The engineers decided
to instal a Riggenbach rack section graded at 1:20 over a
length of 3,382km. By this means, the railway was able to
climb 208m in a rail distance of only 6.77km. A 213m tunnel
– the only one on the line - was also constructed, and on
20 June 1894, the ﬁrst train arrived in Waterval Boven, 94km
Tracklaying continued westwards without further
engineering difﬁculties over the highveld plateau, the
highest point - near Belfast - being 1,920m above sea
level. On 20 October 1894, at Balmoral, the work team met
its counterpart which had been constructing the railway
eastwards from Pretoria. President Paul Kruger put in the
last bolt at Wilge River on 2 November and a preliminary
service comprising three through passenger trains a week
was inaugurated on 18 November. Full service commenced
on 1 January 1895. A lavish formal opening of the railway
took place in Pretoria on 8 July 1895.
Except for the rack section, the entire Eastern Line
(“Oosterlijn”) from Komatipoort to Pretoria was built with a
ruling gradient of 1:50, uncompensated for curves of 150m
CONSTRUCTION OF THE TUNNEL
Work on the tunnel commenced from both ends on 18
October 1892, using compressed air drills for the drive at
the ceiling for about 1.5 to 1.8m, followed by benching or
widening. A deep cutting, 914m in length through solid
rock led to the tunnel entrance at the Waterval Boven
end. Working conditions were dangerous because of falling
The tunnel was holed through on 9 September 1893. When
the centre and levels were checked in the middle of the
bore, they were correct to within 50mm. This was an amazing
achievement, considering the tunnel was located on a
curve of 225m radius.
OPERATING THE RACK LINE
Motive power for the rack section came in the form of
three 29 ton 0-4-2 tank locomotives, ordered from the
Emil Kessler Maschinenfabrik in Esslingen, Germany, and
placed in service in 18944
. A fourth engine of the same
design was obtained from the Emil Kessler Works in 1897.
From photographs it appears that the driving mechanism
comprised a direct-driven cogwheel located on a
separate axle between the two sets of driving wheels. Once
the teeth engaged with the rack, they remained in mesh
from end to end.
The tricky part came at the entry or “tongue” at either end
of the rack, when the pinion ﬁrst engaged with the rack
ladder. Careless handling by the engine driver could cause
serious damage to the rack teeth. For “up” journeys, the
rack locomotive was placed at the rear of the train to act
as pusher. On “down” journeys, it was placed at the head
of the train to provide braking power, and the train
locomotive brought up at the rear.
The old NZASM tunnel is a declared national monument.
NZASM 0-4-2 rack loco “Republiek”.
SOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAY
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 3www.railwaysafrica.com
Each load was limited to just 140 tons. Average trip duration
was an hour, which included marshalling the load, coaling
and watering. Being single track with no passing loop, only
one train could occupy the line at a time.
The volume of trafﬁc increased steadily. During 1903,
406,000 tons had been conveyed from Delagoa Bay to the
Rand. This ﬁgure increased to 458,000 tons in 1905, the
total tonnage moved that year amounting to 687,000. With
capacity limited to 2,500 tons a day, the rack section was
becoming a serious impediment.
During 1905, two 84 ton 4-6-4 rack-adhesion, 4-cylinder tank
arrived from the Vulcan Foundry, designated
as class M by the Central South African Railways (CSAR -
formed by amalgamation of the NZASM and Free State
railways following the Boer War). The two outside cylinders,
457mm in diameter and with a 660mm stroke, drove the
conventional coupled wheels. The rack engine, which was
independent of the adhesion engine, also comprised 2
similarly-dimensioned cylinders, driving the cogwheels
carried on a frame suspended from the leading and
coupled wheel axles. When engaging the rack, both sets
of cylinders were steamed and traction was obtained from
both the rack pinions and the adhesion driving wheels.
Even with the two additional rack locomotives in service,
chief locomotive superintendent L S Smart of the Central
South African Railways (CSAR) reported in 1906 that the
original batch of rack engines was fast being worn out.
Consequently, the project of deviating the line received
The route chosen for the deviation was designed to spread
the climb over a track length of 12km on a compensated
grade of 1:50 and the minimum curve radius was set at
125.3m (14°). According to B P Wall, chief engineer of the
CSAR, engineers of the NZASM had already surveyed
alternative routes on a 1:30 and 1:40 grade, but this would
have entailed work of such an expensive nature that
construction was deferred until the volume of trafﬁc justiﬁed
the capital outlay. In early 1904, a traverse was run between
Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder on a 1:30 grade up to
the Elands River falls, but gaining the necessary elevation
was problematic without resorting to tunnels and other
An easily graded route over the initial 3km from Waterval
Boven down to the Elands River was not difﬁcult to ﬁnd.
The crossing was made over a curved bridge comprising
ﬁve 15.2m spans towering 18m above the river bed. Soon
thereafter, the ﬁrst krantz, a sheer cliff face rising out of the
valley necessitated benching the line out of the hillside. At
the 4.4km post, a deep cutting was unavoidable on the
approach to no 1 tunnel, a straight bore 381m in length.
Beginning on 25 November 1906, three “Climax” drills
running at 100rpm were employed at each heading with
The original ﬁve-arch stone bridge over the Dwaalheuwel
Spruit is a declared national monument.
steam supplied by two locomotive boilers. Break-through
came on 17 July 1907, then the tunnel was widened out
by hand. Fissures and clay seams were encountered and
since, in many places, the roof appeared to be ﬂaking
away, a concrete lining was applied throughout.
Since the distance from the east portal to the next cliff
was less than 150m, a tight curve on an embankment was
necessary. Thereafter, the line followed an easier alignment
until the 7.6km post, where a very steep spur blocked the
way. Here no 2 tunnel - on a curve 190m in length - proved
more troublesome than the other due to unstable geology,
with much of the rock crushed and distorted. Heavy
timbering extending some 50m was needed for casting
concrete 450mm thick to line the roof.
The ﬁnal part of the descent was made around a tight
horseshoe curve to bring the line down to the Elands River.
As the route approached the river near the 11.2km post, the
horizontal distance between the upper and the lower levels
of the track formation was only 7.62m, while the vertical
difference was 32m. A curved bridge comprising ﬁve spans
was provided to carry the line over the river at the 12km
post. A junction with the original line was made about
1,600m west of Waterval Onder. There were 56 curves on
the deviation, of which 16 were of 14° (125.3m radius). The
new alignment, costing the CSAR administration some
£140,000, was opened on 1 April 1908. At £18,667 per
mile (1.6km), which ranked as the most expensive piece of
railway built at that time.
Elimination of the need to split loads saved an estimated
£7,000 to £10,000 per annum in operating costs - both the
locomotive depot and repair workshop at Waterval Onder
Partial doubling and a further deviation of the line was
undertaken between Waterval Boven and Ondervalle
(6.09km) in 1965. This included a new bridge over the
Elands River and twinning the tunnels. Google Earth imagery
reveals that the upper crossing of the Elands River was
made on a new curved bridge. Scars left by earlier
earthworks on the adjacent slopes suggest the line was
deviated from the original crossing, where the piers of the
are still in place. The twin no 1 tunnel, built in
1964, measures 459m. Curiously, though tunnel no 2 was
twinned in 1965, this section of the line has remained
GMAM Garratt near Waterval Onder prior to electriﬁcation .
SOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAYSOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAY
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 20104 www.railwaysafrica.com
Going by the extended tunnel symbol depicted on the
1:50,000 topographic map 2530CB Waterval Boven (2nd
Edition 1988), the original 1905 tunnel appears to have
been abandoned and incorporated on a maintenance track.
There is another section of double track, 2km in length,
beginning just before the new lower bridge over the Elands
River (the structural remains of the old single track bridge
have been left standing alongside) and ending at Waterval
Onder (12.75km). It would seem this lower bridge and
doubling of the track is more recent.
The complete line from Witbank to Komatipoort was opened
to electric traction in April 1966.
About 15 years after the clang and clatter of the rack railway
ended in 1908, the old tunnel was used for road purposes
for a short while but stands today as a silent monument to
a great pre-1900 engineering achievement – and those who
died building the “Oosterlijn”.
1. Rack assistance was used at only two locations in Africa.
The other (from 1905 until 1948) was in the Lengue
Gorge on Angola’s Benguela Railway. Both employed
the Riggenbach system. Two lesser known rack railway
examples existed on islands off the coast: Bioko (formerly
Fernando Pó) in the Gulf of Guinea, and on Madeira.
2.An incline of around 1:14 is considered the limit on which
a conventional adhesion locomotive with a trailing load,
under optimal conditions, can ascend without excessive
wheel slippage, and - more importantly - not slide out of
control during the descent.
3.The ﬁrst rack and pinion system, patented by John
Blenkinsop in England in 1811, was used at the Middleton
Railway in Leeds from 1812 to 1835. In 1871, the ﬁrst
section of the Arth-Goldau-Rigi railway was opened
near Lucerne, Switzerland, employing a ladder-type
rack system patented eight years previously by Swiss
locomotive engineer Niklaus Riggenbach (1817-1899). It
was considered an improvement on the system invented
by an American, Sylvester Marsh, which was used up
Mount Washington, New Hampshire, USA in 1869. Both
take the form of a steel ladder, but whereas Marsh used
rungs of circular section, Riggenbach’s were tapered to
ensure better locking of the cogs and to counteract any
tendency of the teeth to climb out of the rack. Later rack
designs, such as Abt, Strub and Lamella, use one or more
sets of solid bars or blades mounted vertically and have
the “teeth” machined to a precise proﬁle within them. This
ensures continuous positive engagement of the pinions
and can be accommodated in a very small track radius.
Later forms of rack/cogwheel systems were developed
and named after their inventors: Abt, Locher, & Strub. A
more recent adaptation, the Lamella system, was devised
by Von Roll, one of Switzerland’s longest established
industrial manufacturing companies (now part of Austrian
4.NZASM “32 tonner” rack locomotives no 991 “Vierklem”,
992 “Drieklem” and 993 “Republiek” were placed in
service in 1894. No 994 “Vaderland” followed in 1897.
5.CSAR class M rack locomotives, nos 995 & 996, placed
in service in 1905. According to D F Holland, these
locomotives were failures. The rack equipment was
removed in 1906 and they were scrapped in 1912.
6.See page xx for 1949 Elands River bridge tragedy.
RACK ASSISTED RAILWAYS:
In today’s world of high speed and heavy-haul railways, a
rack-assisted railway tends to be seen as a curiosity of
yesteryear’s technology. Yet, there was a time when they
were the aristocrats of the railways, engineered to follow
the most audacious alignments and venturing to precarious
locations which adhesion railways could not reach. Notably
in Switzerland, rack-assisted railways still perform a vital
role in the transport network; no other country has so many
still in use. A number of lines with rack-assisted sections
continue to operate in other parts of Europe and Great
Britain, the USA and Australia.
Typical present-day Swiss line using the Riggenbach rack system.
Section of the NZASM Riggenbach rack rail.
3 ft. 6 in. (1067 mm)
TRACK DETAIL FOR SYSTEM RIGGENBACH RACK
1. BULPIN T V. Lost Trails of the Transvaal, The Eastern Line. Cape Town, Howard
2 DE JONG R C, VAN DER WALT G M and HEYDENRYCH D H. NZASM 100 1877-
1899. The buildings, steam engines and structures of the Netherlands South African
Railway Company. Pretoria, Chris van Rensburg Publications, 1988.
3. HAINE G S. Through the Transvaal’s ﬁrst tunnel. South African Railways & Harbours
Magazine, October 1953, pp 733-745.
4. HOLLAND D F. Steam Locomotives of the South Africa Railways. Cape Town, Purnell,
1971. vol 1: 1859-1910.
5. JEHAN D. Rack Railways of Australia. Sydney, David Jehan (publisher), 2003.
6. MESSERSCHMIDT W. Zahnradbahnen - gestern-heute-in aller Welt. Stuttgart,
Franck’hsche Verlagshandlung, 1972.
7. Report of the General Manager of South African Railways, UG 59, 1965/66, p 50.
8. WALL B P. The Waterval Boven Deviation, Transvaal. South African Railway Magazine,
vol 2, no 3, June 1908, pp 131-137.
9. Information on lengths and dates of construction of the tunnels, was supplied by
David Easton, and is gratefully acknowledged.
SOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAYSOUTH AFRICAN RACK RAILWAY
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 20106 www.railwaysafrica.com
Green Light for Atlantic Rail
Ian Pretorius’s Atlantic Rail steam rail-tour company has
been given the go ahead to run trains on Western Cape
Metrorail lines. The interface agreement between the
company and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa
(Prasa) has been renewed and the Railway Safety Regulator’s
“We’re ready to go” says an excited Pretorius. “We were
actually ready for the Soccer World Cup, but could not get
permission to run any trains over that period. Our ﬁrst trip is
scheduled for Heritage Day (24 September) and we might
even slot in an earlier run”. The situation has been complicated
by closure of the line between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town
(6.3km) since last November due to sea damage. Nobody
seems to know when this scenic section of single track will
be repaired and reopened. “But it has been agreed that
we can operate as far as Fish Hoek. Buses will transport
anyone wanting to go on to Simon’s Town. We will also
stop at Kalk Bay - for those who want to jump off there and
perhaps ‘do lunch’ at the famous Brass Bell Restaurant. So
there are a lot of options for a day out.” The train consists of
2-8-4 class 24 no 3655 (North British Locomotive Company,
1948) and four passenger coaches built between 1922 and
1953. The equipment belongs to the Cape Western Vintage
Railway and is operated by Atlantic Rail under agreement.
To publicise upcoming operations, an open day was held
at Atlantic Rail’s Monument Station (formerly the parcels
platforms at Cape Town Station) on Sunday 8 August.
Despite starting off as a typical wet Cape winter’s day, the
turnout was considered ‘extremely good’, with over 2,500
A number of railway-related stalls and displays had been
set up and class 26 no 3450, the Red Devil, (currently
in storage at Monument Station) had been placed in a
prominent position after being very smartly turned out by
Atlantic Rail volunteers.
But the star attraction was undoubtedly a ride in the train
behind the class 24 on a short up-and-down operation out
of the station. For those of us who grew up with steam, it is
sobering to think that for the younger passengers this was
their ﬁrst experience of a real steam locomotive! If Atlantic
Rail’s plans come to fruition, this will hopefully not be their
Details of planned trips can be obtained from Atlantic Rail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to PO Box 5333, Cape
A supporting Friends of Atlantic Rail group has been formed
and will provide a volunteer base to assist with maintenance
and operation. For further details regarding FoAR, contact
Brett Radloff at email@example.com or at the above
- Peter Rogers
Class 24 no 3655 and 26 no 3450: the star attractions at Atlantic Rail’s successful
open day. Photo: Peter Rogers
OPEN DAY AT CAPE TOWN
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 7www.railwaysafrica.com
OPEN DAY AT CAPE TOWN
PETE THE PUNDIT muses over –
CHINA’S GROWING AFRICAN FOOTPRINT, TICKET-MACHINE
JARGON, PENALISING LATE-RUNNERS and MOONING AMTRAK
MANY A FINE WORD
Ofﬁcial descriptions of the rail accord signed between
China and South Africa bristle with ﬁne words: words like
consolidating, expanding, deepening, focusing, cooperating,
promoting, beneﬁting, empowering; even “win-win”. Win-win
has a nice, Chinese-sounding ring about it.
Reading between the lines: China is to magnanimously
share things like know-how and experience with South
Africa, and will happily supply useful things like locomotives
and rolling stock. To assist South Africa in accepting this
obviously unbeatable offer, generous loans are to be made
available. In other words, China is a very willing seller and
South Africa, on the face of it, an attractive potential buyer.
After all - this year alone - it had so much money over after
paying for healthcare, education, electricity and other
priority essentials that it found many billions of Rand, Yen or
whatever for recreation and related infrastructure.
South Africa, we are told, will only need to make nominal
down payments. For instance, in respect of the proposed
high-speed railway from Johannesburg to Durban (we all
know this is what transport ministers Ndebele and Zhijun
really have in mind), a mere 40% of the total cost is hinted
at. So if the line in question costs $US30 billion – this ﬁgure
has been mentioned – we are in for a paltry R90 billion.
No doubt that is an eminently reasonable outlay, but one
foresees difﬁcult people asking embarrassing questions
like “How many world-class soccer stadiums could one
build for R90 billion?”
Back in April, after minister Ndebele returned from his
earlier jaunt to China, this column speculated that his high-
speed dream to Durban might set us back R869 billion (at
today’s prices). The calculation derived from the 80km-will-
probably-cost-R30 billion Gautrain precedent. Durban is
about nine times that distance, we pointed out, and all sorts
of obstacles (such as the Drakensberg) lie in the way. Tony
Fisher, writing in Business Report, thinks R1 trillion might
be nearer the mark, once the thing actually gets built.
Getting back to our new-found sponsors, they seem to know
what they are doing - certainly in the running of very fast
trains. On the other side of the coin, there have been two
or three hiccups with past and present Chinese railway
involvements in Africa. Four troublesome Chinese-built
locomotives imported into Namibia “at very competitive
prices” in 2004 have been declared unﬁxable and are
currently for sale as spare parts. A diesel-multiple-unit train
of similar vintage also had problems and has been out of
service for several years.
Nigeria employed Chinese specialists several times in
recent times and seemed – until very recently – to have little
to show for it. According to a typical story (1 October 2002)
in This Day, published in Lagos, “Most of the locomotives
supplied by the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction
Corporation (CCECC) have collapsed”.
In the capital, Abuja, government funding was being
allocated so slowly to building the new light rail line that
the work – in the early 2010 view of sceptical residents -
would take 100 years. China responded helpfully with a loan
worth $US500m. (The contractor for this $US840m project
just happens to be the CCECC). In April 2010 however, a
majority of government senators raised strong objections
to the interest applicable. For a project on this scale, they
argued, 10% is outrageous and very likely the highest in the
world: “It is unacceptable and unprecedented.”
Further east, much was made of the Chinese-built Tanzam
railway from Zambia to Dar-es-Salaam. Today both
infrastructure and rolling stock are dilapidated and barely
operational, though obviously this reﬂects more on the
quality of local management and maintenance than on
China – which recently agreed to pick up the pieces (and
renew a sizeable loan).
Even further east, during June 2010, Chairman of Pakistan
national assembly’s standing committee on railways Sardar
Ayaz Sadiq reportedly criticised 114 locomotives supplied
by Dong Fang Electric Corporation of China, saying they
were “a total failure”. There was a further issue of allegedly
“unauthenticated certiﬁcates” praising Chinese locomotives
supplied inter alia to the Tanzam railway.
No doubt there are other sides to all these stories but the
message is fairly clear. Those who import anything from
anyone – including China – need to be sure they get value
for money. A perception widely held in Africa sees China as
a fairy godmother – a view that China is at no pains to dispel.
In this context there are two sayings worth bearing in mind:
you only get what you pay for, and there’s no such thing as
a free Chinese lunch.
Chinese transport minister Liu Zhijun told Ndebele: “We operate 7,000km of
high-speed rail - the largest network of high-speed rail in the world.”
Profile: 600km of the existing Durban-Johannesburg main-line. There are 27
tunnels, the longest 6km.
100km 200km 300km 400km 500km 600km
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 20108 www.railwaysafrica.com
CONFUSING TICKET MACHINE JARGON
British rail companies are being asked to simplify ticket-
issuing machines following a study ﬁnding that passengers
are being “defeated” by the “bewildering jargon” they
encounter. According to customer watchdog Passenger
Focus, quoted by the BBC, many travellers prefer queuing
to speak to ticket ofﬁce staff, despite the absence of queues
at ticket machines. As a result, waiting times at ticket ofﬁces
often exceed the ﬁve-minute guideline in peak hours.
NAZI INVOLVEMENT TO BE DECLARED
Some companies bidding for the contract to operate
California’s $US45 billion proposed high-speed line
between Los Angeles and San Francisco may have difﬁculty
meeting a likely requirement. It seems that any involvement
in taking people to work, concentration, prisoner-of-war, or
extermination camps between January 1942 and December
1944, will have to be disclosed. Reportedly, the proposal
is speciﬁcally aimed at Société Nationale des Chemins de
fer Français (SNCF - the French national railway). But the
measure would also affect any rail ﬁrms from Germany,
Japan, Spain, and Italy that were involved in transporting
prisoners. Executives at Japanese companies are said to
be particularly concerned that they may face a public
backlash if forced to reveal details of their treatment of
American prisoners. The companies will have to provide
records of their operations and details of whether they paid
restitution to victims.
ENERGY SAVING MODE
East Midlands Trains – a passenger service operator in
the UK - has introduced an energy-saving mode on 27 of
its Meridian power units, to help save fuel and cut down
pollution. If a train stands in a station for more than seven
minutes, most of the engines will shut down automatically,
resulting in reduced noise and emissions. Under present
circumstances, trains can wait up to an hour at stations
such as Nottingham and St Pancras before setting off.
When switched on, the energy saving mode slightly reduces
interior lighting, cuts the power from the at-seat sockets
and limits heating and air conditioning. However, passengers
will still be able to board the train while it is in energy saving
mode and the doors, display screens, WiFi and toilets will
all continue to work as normal.
According to East Midlands Trains’ head of environment
Matt Browne: “As well as the reduction in emissions, this will
save up to 54 litres of diesel per train for every hour they
are not used, saving a massive 800,000 litres of fuel every
year, which is enough to ﬁll 20 articulated road tankers.
There will be further beneﬁts such as improved ﬂeet
reliability and cleaner and quieter stations and depots.”
AUSTRALIAN PROJECT NOT VIABLE
A recently completed cost-beneﬁt study on the $4.7 billion
proposed Melbourne-Brisbane line found the project would
have a negative net worth, even if construction were delayed
until 2040 to allow for freight trafﬁc demand to grow. “Inland
Rail will not generate sufﬁcient access revenue relative to
costs to make it ﬁnancially viable. The total nominal capital
and operating costs exceeded the total nominal track
access revenues, regardless of the assumed operational
start date of 2020, 2030 or 2040,” the Australian Rail Track
Corporation study concluded. The study also found that
the inland line would cut the trafﬁc on the coastal Melbourne
to Sydney and Brisbane to Sydney routes by a third. This
would have a negative impact equivalent to A$1.6 billion.
It would also threaten the future of existing railways
MELBOURNE DELAYS PENALISED
Melbourne’s train concessionaire Metro has agreed that
A$4 million in revenue be withheld in recognition of
continued poor punctuality. The company is to implement
a number of initiatives to boost performance, to better meet
passengers’ expectations. Public transport minister Martin
Pakula explains that the franchise agreement between
Metro and the state enables the Victorian Government to
take action above the normal penalties imposed on public
transport operators for failing to meet prescribed targets. “We
are sending a strong message to Metro, that the community
expects and deserves better performance from their train
system,” Pakula said. On top of the improvements agreed
by Metro and the Department of Transport, a record A$220
million is to be spent during the ﬁnancial year upgrading
and improving key infrastructure.
MOONING AMTRAK IN CALIFORNIA
Thirty years ago, a patron of the Mugs Away Saloon, across
the street from the tracks in Laguna Niguel, California,
offered to buy a drink for anyone who would “moon” a
passing Amtrak train. Anyway, that’s how the story goes.
The fact of the matter is that ever since, in an annual ritual,
locals have lined up to bare
their bottoms to passing
trains. There were about
100 participants this July
- a whole lot less than the
number seen in years gone
by. It appears that mass
action involving thousands
was discouraged by a
police crackdown, following
complaints – something to
do with variations on the
East Midlands Trains: a class 222 “Meridian” set. Photo: P Sangwell.
In South Africa, Gautrain is a prominent user of automated ticket-issuing equipment.
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 9www.railwaysafrica.com
This month Railways Africa features a fascinating ﬁeld that
bears penetrating thought. Appreciate ﬁrst that railway
strengths rest on genetic technologies, which differentiate
them from other transport modes. Appreciate next that
they also share some other technologies with modes with
which they compete. The following brief examples illustrate
All transport modes need movement control of some sort,
essentially to ensure separation between vehicles moving
in the same direction, to avoid collisions between vehicles
moving in opposite directions, and generally to keep
all participants within the system boundary. Entry-level
movement control solutions are pragmatic-manual-visual
vehicle guidance plus elementary rules of good order.
However, as single- or combined vehicles become heavier
and travel faster, trains for example, movement control
solutions must become more complex.
Similarly for propulsion: Historically, railways tended
toward external electric energy sources, renewable where
available, while road tended toward onboard sources,
typically non-renewable (obvious exceptions do exist).
Nowadays, as more expensive renewable energy sources
displace presently less expensive (though ﬁnite) non-
renewable sources, such tendencies are bound to dissolve.
Already hybrid- and straight electric rail- and road vehicles
are ascendant. Next generation light rail propulsion
technology will regenerate braking energy and replenish
losses through inductive coupling to an external electric
energy supply during stops at stations: It could conceivably
also support bus rapid transit.
So also for capacity and scheduling: All transport modes
share the basic requirement of relating capacity to demand.
At entry level, random, single vehicle movements fulﬁl many
logistics needs. While they are indeed the forte of road
transport, higher throughput does require the integrated
control and ordered movements that associate with railways.
While railway implementations of the shared technologies
illustrated here may differ in detail and scale, the principles
apply universally. For example, trolleybus traction motors
are smaller than light rail traction motors, but they use the
same technology to achieve the same objective. Let us
now explore some technologies that railways unavoidably
share with their competitors, to learn how railways can
nevertheless sustain their competitive advantage.
SIGNALLING AND CONTROL
Competitive railways exploit their bearing, guiding, and
coupling genetic technologies to dominate the well-known
heavy-haul, heavy intermodal, high-
speed and very high-speed intercity,
and high-capacity urban rail market
spaces. Here it is useful to call them
From a signalling perspective, the
extremely divergent performance of
these sub-modes challenges designers’ ingenuity. Where
dedicated infrastructure comes naturally, and where
interoperation thus does not occur, divergent performance is
of course a non-issue. For example, urban rail seldom if ever
interoperates with the other three sub-modes. Similarly, very
high-speed intercity does not, or should
not, interoperate with heavy-haul and
heavy intermodal. Therefore, differences
in their characteristics are of no concern.
However, railways that have insufﬁcient
trafﬁc to support lines dedicated to
particular sub-modes, but which may
be able to aggregate sufﬁcient trafﬁc
to upgrade certain routes to high
performance, can and do seek to
interoperate sub-modes that are not
Although it has long existed in Europe,
such interoperation is relatively new
elsewhere in the world. China has
implemented shared high performance routes. Note,
however, that it has also built, or is also building, both freight-
dedicated lines and passenger-dedicated lines. Following
President Obama’s recent economic stimulus package, the
United States sees interoperable high-performance routes
as the way to open up high-speed corridors in several
regions. Saudi Arabia also intends its new railway network
to carry both heavy-haul and high-speed trafﬁc.
Nevertheless, such solutions are sub-optimal for several
reasons. In Europe, freight has played second ﬁddle to
passenger services, resulting in inability to raise freight
axle load to competitive levels, and requiring freight trains
to run inordinately fast to minimise their impact on
passenger line capacity. It may also be necessary to
accommodate collisions between vehicles of disparate
mass and speed. Expectations in the US are that high-
speed trains may reach 25-ton axle loads to ensure they
are crashworthy against heavy freight trains.
Note that interoperation of disparate trains necessitates
compromises. Heavy-haul trains typically operate at 80km/h
maximum speed, with axle load tending to 40 tonnes. Very
high-speed (300+ km/h) intercity trains typically restrict
axle load to less than 20 tonnes, to contain dynamic wheel-
rail forces. Mixed systems typically ﬁnd common ground
in the range 120-200km/h and up to 25 tonnes/axle. This
occurs without achieving the maximum performance of
either sub-mode, thereby compromising the competitiveness
of both. It also sacriﬁces line capacity where that is a
requirement, which it should be for a competitive railway.
While heavy-haul has rooted itself in Africa, and will likely
continue to grow, other potentially competitive railway
applications have lagged. Freight is therefore likely to
dominate the African railway mix, with possibly some high-
speed and perhaps a few very high-speed intercity services.
The NATMAP 2050 preview ﬁndings indeed foresee
Gauteng-Polokwane and Gauteng-Durban as candidates.
Another Side of Railways
Dave van der Meulen, managing member, Railway Corporate Strategy CC
Light rail – next generation will regenerate braking energy. Photo: Editor (San
Diego LRT at Mexican border).
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201010 www.railwaysafrica.com
The challenge to railway signalling in Africa is clear - support
positioning rail ahead of road as prime transport mode,
noting that entry-level movement control works just ﬁne
for roads. In a setting where trafﬁc density will likely be
relatively low, and some routes may ultimately carry mixed
freight and high-speed trafﬁc, is the solution likely to lean
towards the Positive Train Control (PTC) model set for
implementation in North America by 2015? The latter
addresses a comparable setting, while minimising ground-
ENERGY, EMISSION, AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Rail’s steel-wheel-on-steel-rail system has lower rolling
resistance than that of road, comparatively more so at low
speeds (because aerodynamic drag dominates resistance
at high and very high speed). To illustrate, where
competition is arguably most direct and intense, light rail
uses approximately half the energy of bus rapid transit
per passenger-kilometre. The higher rolling resistance of
rubber tyres accounts for the higher energy consumption.
Thus, for the same throughput capacity, rubber tyres require
more energy to overcome resistance, and can regenerate
less during braking. Electric railways are also able to
regenerate energy for use by other trains. With current
technology, even that on the horizon, road may emulate
rail with difﬁculty in this regard.
Diesel locomotives have recently embraced hybrid
technology. In a domain where battery weight at worst will
not detract from payload, and at best may even add to the
adhesive mass of locomotives, it appears a sure winner. In
a rubber-tyred system, the mass of batteries would likely
detract from payload. Hybrid propulsion thus works well for
transport modes with an afﬁnity for electric propulsion, and
better for those that have lower rolling resistance.
Note, however, that road and rail technologies are
converging in response to energy scarcity. For example,
many mines use hybrid, diesel-electric mining trucks with
external electric energy supply on steep gradients, while
trolleybuses with diesel engines or batteries for sensitive
areas and/or dead spots have emerged. Energy scarcity
thus potentially reduces the natural competitive advantage
of rail vis-à-vis road, by encouraging the latter to emulate
some of rail’s strengths.
Note also that infrastructure characteristics inﬂuence
energy consumption. Old railway alignments often take a
long way round on easy contours. However, distances on
such tortuous routes can be 50% longer than road between
the same origin-destination pair, which counteracts rail’s
energy efﬁciency. Likewise, vertical alignment should
maximise the use of regenerative braking and minimise the
need for friction braking.
Appreciate that, while energy conversion technology has
made, and is making, rapid progress, only state-of-the-art
equipment can realise the associated energy and emission
reductions. Emissions of course depend on the source of
energy, but whatever that is, lower energy consumption must
concurrently reduce emissions, giving rail the advantage.
However, aged rolling stock usually does not incorporate
energy-efﬁcient technology, and in this respect, road vehicles
typically have a shorter life-cycle than railway rolling stock,
giving road the advantage of more advanced technology.
How do railways sustain competitive advantage in this
milieu? To the extent that competitive modes erode their
lead by advances in shared technologies, railways need to
shift their attention to the differentiating strengths endowed
by rail’s genetic technologies.
CAPACITY AND SCHEDULING
Smart operators know what their customers want. Information
technology is available, or customisable, to enable them to
deliver it. Identifying customers or their freight is the sharp
point of that process. Radio frequency identiﬁcation (RFID)
has become the glue that integrates logistics or mobility
systems, transport service providers, and their customers.
This applies to providers of both freight and passenger
services. Smartcards for passengers also facilitate operation
across modes and services: Gautrain has already introduced
them to South Africa. RFID is also gaining ground in logistics.
The prime requirement is to integrate the customer-facing
systems of individual entities along the value chain to
support seamless service delivery.
The wake-up call is that none of these good things is
unique to railways. They merely facilitate integration into
the business systems, mobility systems, and supply chains
of others. However, the service provider that actually wins
the business is the one that offers the most attractive value
proposition. In this setting, RFID and the systems behind it
is a leveller. The challenge for railways is thus to exploit their
genetic technologies to differentiate and enhance their value
Differentiating and sharing are important positioning
strategies. Differentiating should increase competitive
advantage in particular market spaces. Sharing should
increase business interoperability among service providers
in general. Both are important for minimising the cost of
logistics and mobility to customers. Shared technologies
favour no player. However, to the extent that they tend to level
the playing ﬁeld, rail needs to redouble its efforts to innovate
continuously to leverage its genetic technologies and the
competitive strengths they endow. As road emulates it, rail
needs to differentiate itself further to increase its competitive
distance from road in the market spaces in which it chooses
In African context, energy is abundant. The Congo River,
with the second largest ﬂow in the world after the Amazon,
reputedly has the hydropower potential to supply all the
continent’s electricity needs (although one hears no mention
of the economic development level at which this will occur).
African oil has become signiﬁcant - it supplies more to the
US than Saudi Arabia, albeit from more dispersed deposits.
Nigeria is the world’s tenth largest producer, followed in
Africa by Algeria, Libya, Angola, Egypt, Sudan, Equatorial
Guinea, Chad, Congo, and Gabon. Africa’s economic growth
is on an upward trajectory, the median growth in 2009 being
2.6%, against -1% for the rest of the world.
Notwithstanding such solid foundations, intra-African trade is
low volume. The cost of transport is one of the impediments.
The foregoing thoughts should trigger some insights that
will encourage railways to increase their contribution to
exploiting Africa’s evident potential.
Rail’s steel-wheel-on-steel-rail system has lower rolling resistance than that of road.
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 11www.railwaysafrica.com
“We are talking about the railway master plan which is
expected to consume between $20 and $25 billion,” he
said, adding that work on upgrading existing railways
and build new lines is likely to start in 2013. New rail links
are to be constructed between inland countries and the
ports of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania and Kenya’s Mombasa.
The African Development Bank is the lead ﬁnancial advisor
to the railway project and the EAC is exploring all options
to raise the necessary capital. Mutabingwa said: “We are
looking at equity, raising capital on the debt markets, all
these options will be explored”.
The EAC launched a common market in July, opening the
borders of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi
with a combined GDP of $75 billion, although poor roads
and railways remain an impediment to greater trade,
Reuters points out.
NAIROBI CITY RAIL GOES AHEAD
Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has advertised for
contractors to build a new station in Nairobi. “We expect
construction to start in the next 60 days,” managing
director Nduva Muli told the newspaper The Nation. The
facility will be “somewhere along Mombasa Road” and is
to include a shopping centre, carpark and bus terminus.
“We are implementing the project with government
support,” Muli was quoted saying, “and plan to put up
others at Imara Daima, Makadara and the Jomo Kenyatta
International Airport (JKIA).” Finance minister Uhuru
Kenyatta has allocated Sh1.9 billion in this year’s budget to
ﬁnance railway upgrading.
The ﬁrst phase of the project, which was allocated Sh600
million in the 2009/10 budget for feasibility studies, will
involve the rehabilitation of about 160km of the existing
rail system within Nairobi. About 7km of new track is to be
built to JKIA’s Unit 3, and stations and other facilities on
the network are to be rehabilitated. Work is expected to be
ﬁnished by early 2012.
As a public-private partnership project, the government
intends to own, upgrade and maintain the track as well as
stations and the signalling system, while the private sector
is to operate the trains. A regular and efﬁcient commuter
service is envisaged, using coaches designed to carry
a maximum of 200 passengers. Most trains will consist of
ALGERIAN LIGHT RAIL CONTRACT
Isolux-Corsan has been appointed by Enterprise Metro
d’Alger to implement the Telvent SmartMobility(TM) light
rail solution for the new 18km, 32-station light rail line in the
Algerian city of Oran,
scheduled to begin
operating by 2011.
The system will enable
city road trafﬁc
and the line, with
capability to prioritise
rail at any time over
private transport at
TECHNICAL WORKSHOP IN LUANDA
In advance of the resumption of full public service on the
424km Luanda-Ndalatando-Malanje line in December, a
training course for technicians is to run from September
until January 2011. According to Adalberto de Morais, an
ofﬁcial of Caminhos de ferro de Luanda (CFL), subjects
covered will include line control and station management.
The line was reopened on 27 July following a test trip
after rehabilitation, prior to which the entire line had been
closed for 18 years.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)
EAST AFRICA NEEDS $US25 BILLION
East Africa needs to raise up to $US25 billion, or nearly
two-thirds of Kenya’s annual output, over the next decade
to upgrade its railways, Reuters reports, quoting the East
African Community’s (EAC) deputy secretary-general for
infrastructure and planning Alloys Mutabingwa.
Nairobi’s present station, seen at the time of the British Royal visit in 1983.
Telvent SmartMobility fare machines.
Not much is running in the DRC today. In happier times, Martin Welzel foundNot much is running in the DRC today. In happier times, Martin Welzel found
this GE U15C Krupp-built (1982 - 1,067mm gauge) loco at Kinshasa in 1991.this GE U15C Krupp-built (1982 - 1,067mm gauge) loco at Kinshasa in 1991.
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201012 www.railwaysafrica.com
Building the future
gautrain turnout assembly
East African Community (EAC) secretary-general Juma
Mwapachu, commenting on the new railway being planned
to link the port of Tanga in Tanzania with Musoma on
Lake Victoria (with onward ferry connection to Kampala
in Uganda), said it will “boost the economy and facilitate
smooth implementation of the bloc’s “common market
protocol.” It is by no means a new concept, having been
on the drawing board far too long, in the view of press
observers. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has been
quoted saying the Musoma link was “the lifeline of the
Uganda of his dreams”.
The port of Dar-es-Salaam is severely stretched. It handles
about 95% of Tanzania’s international trade in addition to
serving neighbouring landlocked countries. Development at
the port of Tanga, with a current annual handling capacity of
500,000 tonnes, would reduce the load on Dar meaningfully.
TUNIS: ALSTOM TO SUPPLY MORE CITADIS TRAMS
The Tunis transit authority, Transtu, has awarded Alstom a
€58 million contract to supply 16 additional Citadis tramsets,
as well as maintenance services for its entire existing
ﬂeet. The new vehicles will be identical to the 39 delivered
between 2007 and 2009. In operation since October 2007
on the network’s line 1, the trams carry over 460,000
passengers per day. Tunis was the ﬁrst city in the
Maghreb region to acquire the Citadis technology. Algiers,
Casablanca, Constantine, Oran and Rabat now also utilise
vehicles from the Citadis tramway range.
TUNISIAN HIGH-SPEED LINE
Tunisia is planning to invest $US5.5 billion over the next
decade in the development of a high-speed rail link with
Morocco, Algeria and Libya. Despite an existing rail
network of more than 2,100km, operational efﬁciency is
hampered by gauge differences and limited electriﬁcation.
Less than 10% of the country’s freight is carried on rail,
a situation that could change radically if the envisaged
“Trans-Maghreb” high-speed railway is built to link
Casablanca with Tripoli in Libya, via Algiers and Tunisia. The
project would see Tunisia build 780km of high-speed track,
as well as related support infrastructure.
However, at a summit meeting hosted by Tunisia’s transport
ministry to discuss the “Trans-Maghreb” - which brought
together the country’s shippers union and representatives
eight coaches, giving a total capacity of 1,600 passengers
per train. Compared with current passenger totals of
about 20,000 passengers daily, it is expected that 200,000
will be moved once the Sh24 billion project is complete.
BOND ISSUE TO HELP FUND NAIROBI LINE
Kenya Railway Corporation (KRC) plans to issue bonds to
fund part of a $US200 million upgrade to the rail system in
the capital Nairobi, Mugo Kibati, head of the government’s
long-term development plan (“Vision 2030”) told the media.
LIBYAN TRACK COMPONENTS
General contractor China Civil Engineering Construction
Corporation has awarded the German company Vossloh
two contracts to supply rail fastenings and turnouts for
1,300km of the new rail network in the west of Libya. The
contracts have a total value of €115m and deliveries will run
ANSALDO TO SIGNAL LIBYA
A consortium of Finmeccanica companies Ansaldo STS and
Selex Communications has received a €247 million contract
from Russian Railways subsidiary Zarubezhstroyteknologiya
to provide signalling, automation, telecommunications,
power supply, security, and ticketing systems for Libya’s new
Ansaldo STS leads the consortium with an 81.8% share,
which equates to around €202 million, and includes the
installation of the European Rail Trafﬁc Management System
(ERTMS), interlockings, trackside equipment, the control
centre and power supplies. The work will take around three
years to complete.
The 551km Surt-Benghazi section is the ﬁrst phase of a line
that is to extend along the length of Libya’s Mediterranean
coast from Tunisia to Egypt. The line will initially use diesel
locomotives operating at up to 160km/h, although it will
later switch to electric traction with a maximum operating
speed of 250km/h. China Railway Construction is building
the adjoining 352km Surt-
Misratah-Al Khums section,
as well as the 172km
western stretch of the line
between Tripoli and the
Tunisian border at Ras
Adjir. Ansaldo STS was
awarded the signalling,
power supply contract for
both sections, as well as
the 992km inland branch
from Al Hishah to Waddan
According to the 2010 CIA World Factbook, route distance
covered by railways in Liberia totals 429km, 345km on
1,435mm gauge and 84km on 1,067mm. “Most sections
of the railway are inoperable because of damage suffered
during the civil wars from 1980 to 2003.”
The Encyclopaedia of the Nations records that “Liberia’s
railways in 2002 were all owned by foreign steel and ﬁnancial
interests in conjunction with the Liberian government and
used for transportation of iron ore from mines to the ports of
Buchanan and Monrovia. One of these, the Lamco Railroad
closed in 1989 after iron ore production ceased; the other
two were shut down by the civil war. Large sections of the
rail lines have been dismantled, and an estimated 60km
was exported for scrap.”
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201014 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.
the Albertine Basin. The EastAfrican speculates that the
Pakwach line “is critical because of political undercurrents.
It is the link to the region that opposes Museveni most
stridently. Citadel has promised Museveni that it can get
trains running on the northern line in 24 months. Museveni
reportedly needs to demonstrate to the people of the north
that he cares for their welfare.”
CITADEL & RVR
Citadel Capital, the Egyptian private equity ﬁrm with a 51%
stake in Rift Valley Railways (RVR), says it has “effected
major management restructuring”, has hired additional
executives to run the railway and has introduced “three
more lenders into the fold”. According to a press statement,
Citadel has “roped in South America’s independent rail
operator America Latina Logistica (ALL) as a new partner
which is expected “to bring on board the technical capacity
needed to salvage the concession.” It describes ALL as being
“registered as a Brazilian holding ﬁrm that operates railway
lines in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. It
provides transport services such as logistics, intermodal
transport, port operations, movement and storage of
merchandise and manages a rail network that extends for
more than 20,000km.”
[A comment posted following the appearance of the
above report on the internet contended: “the Brazilian
railway company ALL does not (and has never) operate
trains in Uruguay. There are just from time to time wagons
from ALL Argentina entering to Salto in Uruguay, but ALL
has no operating concession in Uruguay. The same in the
case of Paraguay. And the way ALL isn’t fulﬁlling its work,
for example no infrastructure maintenance in Argentina, isn’t
the best reference to be operator in more countries.” - Editor]
CHIPATA-MCHINJI LINE OPENS
The ofﬁcial opening of the Mchinji (Malawi) to Chipata
(Zambia) line was set for 27 August, Zambian Eastern
Province minister Isaac Banda told the press. The
government invited Malawian and Mozambique ofﬁcials
to attend. Banda said the date was set to coincide with
the hosting of this year’s Kulamba traditional ceremony
of the Chewa-speaking people of Zambia, Malawi and
Mozambique, scheduled to take place in Katete on 28
Building of the 24km Chipata extension beyond Mchinji was
launched in 1982 as a bilateral project between Zambia
and Malawi but the Zambian Government abandoned it 10
years afterwards because of lack of funds. The scheme
was revitalised in 2006 by late president Levy Mwanawasa.
In 2009, the government allocated another K10 billion in
the national budget for completion of the line.
of state railway utilities in Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania
and Tunisia - no time-frame was drawn up for construction.
LATEST ON UGANDA & RVR
In the words of The EastAfrican, what has been going on
at Rift Valley Railways (RVR) “involves a colourful cast of
inept public ofﬁcials and World Bank advisors, scheming
businessmen and proﬁteers, political sharks, an ambitious
and untouchable Kenyan investment house and a brash
private equity operator from Egypt with lots of cash.”
Ugandan businessman Charles Mbire is said to have
acquired his 15% stake in the Rift Valley Railways (RVR)
consortium with strong backing from the World Bank’s
private sector lending arm and German-backed development
lender KfW. This is believed to pave the way for RVR to lock
in loans urgently needed to fund infrastructure rehabilitation
and to buy rolling stock. Reportedly “four new lenders”
have made commitments. Equity Bank is said to have
signed a $US20 million deal. African Development Bank
has committed $30 million. The emerging Market Fund for
Africa has committed $20 million.
Mbire, says The EastAfrican, was recently appointed as
one of the International Monetary Fund’s regional advisors
and “easily passed the extensive due diligence that IFC is
obligated to carry out on its potential business partners.”
Earlier, says the paper, “it appeared like RVR’s never-ending
shareholder saga was headed for more weeks of drama”
with suggestions that Uganda wanted to exclude the
Pakwach and Kasese branch lines from a pending
re-signing of the RVR concession.
Both were omitted from the original 25-year deal signed
in 2006, comprising the 1,200 kilometre Kenya-Uganda
railway from Kampala to Mombasa, together with the
Nakuru-Kisumu (Lake Victoria) branch. Citadel Capital of
Egypt, the new majority shareholder in RVR, has asked that
the branchlines be included now.
Kampala-Kasese, 333km, is described as a “key gateway”
to Uganda’s copper mines. Tororo-Pakwach (503km) runs
through major cement mining zones and mineral ﬁelds,
passing to the north of the newly discovered oil ﬁelds in First train arrives at Chipata,12 December 2009.
Coupling up in Tunisia. Photo: Richard Grönstedt.
Photo: Daily Nation files.
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201016 www.railwaysafrica.com
ZIMBABWE “FREEDOM TRAINS”
“There was always drama at the main railway station in
Harare barely a year ago as commuters jostled to take a
ride in the cheap commuter trains -- the Freedom Train,”
writes Fortious Nhambura in the state-owned Herald. “So
popular were the trains that some people chose to take a
ride from town to Cold Comfort before taking a commuter
omnibus to Kuwadzana only to have a feel of the train. That
was indeed the freedom of the Freedom Train that time.
“But barely a year later and after the introduction of the
multi-currency system the train has lost its appeal.
“Introduced in 2001 to alleviate glaring transport problems
experienced by many urban commuters, the Freedom Train
became an instant hit. Most urban commuters opted for
the Freedom Train as it offered and allowed them to travel
in a relaxed atmosphere that was also cheap and
convenient for the hard-hit factory city worker. Although
the prices have remained fairly low the increase of quicker
alternative transport to and from the city centre has drawn
commuters away from the Freedom Train.
“Commuter trains ply the city-Mabvuku, city-Tynwald and
the city-Dzivarasekwa routes. Demand for their services
soared as the economic challenges hit commuters hard
on their heels thereby forcing the National Railways of
Zimbabwe to increase both the morning and evening
services in all the intra-routes in Harare. The greatest
undoing by the commuter train has been its failure to
observe timetables, forcing commuters to seek alternative
“One of the biggest let downs by the Freedom Train has
been time-tabling. You expect to get to your destination on
time and be assured that your train comes at the correct
time. That has not been the case with Freedom Train.
Unfortunately this has even affected the organisation’s
management to a point that it has failed to ensure the train
keeps schedule or even care to apologise for the delays.
Commuters say the railway authorities have also done a
disservice to the travelling public by failing to refurbish the
wagons despite the handsome income they are generating.
They say they expected NRZ to start refurbishing the trains
as a way of attracting more passengers. In this era of the US
dollar one needs to get value for their money but nothing has
been done to refurbish and beautify the coaches.
“As the economic sanctions bite, the metal snake made
sure the low-income earners of Harare were taken from
their homes to work. Political, religious and economic
debates made the day as the chongololo explored the
city’s townships. It is indeed the hope of the people, we still
want you Freedom Train. You must not go.”
NRZ SET TO BUY 29 CHINESE COACHES
According to the Zimbabwe Independent, the National
Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is in the process of procuring
29 “state-of-the-art” passenger coaches from CSR Nanjing
Puzhen Rolling Stock Company Ltd, a subsidiary of China
South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation (CSR).
NRZ spokesperson Fanuel Masikati conﬁrmed the purchase,
but declined to give details saying it could jeopardise the
arrangement. He explained: “We once gave details of an
Angolan deal and our counterparts pulled out as they were
not happy.” Masikati did not disclose the amount involved.
“Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that NRZ ofﬁcials
have visited the headquarters of the companies in China to
‘tie loose ends of the deal’.
“According to the order, the ailing parastatal would get
six types of coaches -- special express hard-seat coach,
special express cushioned-seat coach, special express
semi-cushioned berth sleeper, special express bar-coach,
luggage and power generating combination coach and a
The Independent recalled that NRZ concluded other
contracts with CNR of China in 2004 for the supply
of locomotives, trainsets and main-line coaches at a
cost of $US110.4 million. “Each contract required the
establishment of a letter of credit covering the total price of
the equipment against which a 10% deposit would be drawn
for production to begin. NRZ paid $US2.5 million in 2006
as part of the deposit, leaving a balance of $US8.9 million.”
In the event, no rolling stock was delivered.
The Independent comments: “The parastatal is buying
coaches when workers are going for months without pay.
Last month scores of wives of the parastatal’s workers
demonstrated outside the headquarters building in Bulawayo
over their husbands’ unpaid salaries.”
The paper quoted NRZ sources saying that “NRZ has 168
locomotives of which only half are functional. It has 10,123
wagons, but only 5,000 are available for operations.”
Harare commuter “freedom train”. Photo: NRZHarare commuter “freedom train”. Photo: NRZ
Thermitrex (Pty) Ltd
Tel: +27 (0)11 914 2540
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 17www.railwaysafrica.com
SA RAIL NEWS
FAR-REACHING RAIL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME
The National Department of Transport (DoT) has completed
a detailed investment programme in respect of the South
African rail network, including high-speed rail. According
to DoT director-general George Mahlalela, “We are adopting
a sequenced delivery approach for the rail sector over a
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has
identiﬁed a need to recapitalise rolling stock over the next
18 years at an estimated cost of R95 billion. A due diligence
study has been carried out on the acquisition of new
equipment for the entire commuter rail system in South
DoT is looking at “innovative ways” to fund these projects,
without necessarily relying on Treasury. Mahlalela suggested
funding could be leveraged, for example, through “country-
to-country relationships”, or from the private sector. He said
“We are planning to go to the market next year.”
“We are deﬁning what we want,” Mahlalela explained, “so
that when we engage anyone, we have a policy position
available. We are engaging every stakeholder globally and
locally, it’s not exclusive to the Chinese.”
Three routes have been identiﬁed by the National
Department of Transport (DoT) for possible high-speed rail
development – Johannesburg-Durban, Johannesburg-Cape
Town, and Johannesburg-Musina.
According to DoT director-general George Mahlalela,
the necessary feasibility studies are to be put in hand,
starting with the Durban-Johannesburg route. A team is
to commence work in October “with the dual process of
concept development and testing the market for a period
of six months. We are hoping that, at the end of this
process, we will be able to determine whether there is
enough appetite for this project in the market.
“The initial scoping suggests that the project could be
commercially-driven on a public-private partnership
model. There are also possibilities for country-to-country
The high-speed rail projects would not fall under the Prasa
umbrella, as this already faces a “big challenge” in upgrading
SA’S AMBITIOUS RAIL PLANS – THE REALITY
Editorial in Business Day:
“To change the world, one needs to be bold. And in the world
of transport, big, brash projects such as the Gautrain are
the catalysts needed to change the way people travel. It is
the kind of project that may cost billions now but in a decade
or two will have stimulated the economy in ways one never
before thought possible.
“Already we have seen the nodes of Sandton and
Rosebank respond to the introduction of the rail link, with
new development mushrooming around the two almost-
complete stations. Future projects laid out in the national
transport master plan -- which plots the future of transport
in SA until 2050 -- certainly contain those elements of
“The master plan recognises that a decent transport
infrastructure is the backbone of strong economic
development. Among the projects that are outlined in it are
proposals to build a rapid rail link between Johannesburg
and Durban, as well as gradually shifting Transnet’s rail
infrastructure from the Cape narrow gauge to the wider
standard gauge. These are big projects with multibillion-rand
budgets and cannot be tackled without careful planning and
budgeting. It is here that there are major ﬂaws.
“On Tuesday [1 June], the chairwoman of Parliament’s
public enterprises committee, Vytjie Mentor, lambasted
Transnet acting CEO Chris Wells for not adopting the
master plan - as he had not started to lay out the new wider
gauge across its 23,000km network. Wells quite rightly
pointed out this was not a project that could be carried
out overnight. It was hugely expensive, he said, and he did
not think it “appropriate” to tackle such a project in the
“Transnet is barely able to keep its current trains on the
track and already faces enormous operational challenges.
It is also in the midst of a major infrastructure upgrade
programme. While the wider gauge would allow Transnet
to carry heavier loads at higher speeds, the parastatal is
hardly in a position to pay for it or to physically lay it out.
“So while we welcome talk of such ambitious projects, they
need much more thought to make sure they make sense
ﬁnancially and that there is capacity to manage them. The
Joburg-Durban rapid rail link, which would have to deal
with serious and expensive topography challenges, may be
“Once these things have been established, full integration
across transport modes is needed. For example, will a new
rail link be able to be used for both passenger and freight
operations and could the Department of Transport ﬁnd a
South African Rail News
Prasa rolling stock recapitalisation: R95 billion needed over 18 years.
The ramiﬁcations of an overall gauge change: imagine the implications at Sentrarand.
SA RAIL NEWS
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201018 www.railwaysafrica.com
THEY WENT THE EXTRA MILE
During the period 11 June to 11 July, the 22 eight-coach
trainsets allocated to Cape Town’s Southern Line operated
an additional 68 weekday, 43 Saturday and 26 Sunday
services. According to Metrorail, these extra trips were
TRAINS REVERT TO PRE-WORLD CUP TIMETABLES
In mid-July, Metrorail trains reverted to their pre-World
Cup schedules. In Cape Town, minor timetable changes
were made to include the new Century City station on
the line to Bellville via Monte Vista. In late July, a string
of problems affected services in the mother city, with
numerous complaints aired in the press and radio.
The Cape Argus reported:
“Improving the city’s deteriorating railway service, which
came under the spotlight this week, has become the top
priority for the provincial department of transport and public
works. On Wednesday [21 July], the Cape Argus reported
that the unreliable service was having a serious impact on
the city’s productivity and economy. ‘I have undertaken to
put maximum pressure on national government,’ said
transport and public works MEC Robin Carlisle, who has
raised the severity of Metrorail’s crisis with the Passenger
Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and the national
“Carlisle said a sustainable funding model and one central
authority to govern the metro’s public transport network
were the keys to effect change. He estimated a need for
40 new coaches to replace existing ones that are already
past their lifespan. The department however, stated that
the large-scale subsidy needed to rescue Metrorail from
its declining quality of service remained a matter for the
“Central co-ordination of the various branches of public
transport would ensure better services, save money and
reduce the burden on trains, Carlisle said. ‘During peak
hour on the Khayelitsha line over 4,000 people commute
on coaches restricted to only about 2,200 passengers.
Transport needs to be reliable and safe, that’s all that
Transnet Limited has issued the following statement:
“In 2007, Transnet Limited identiﬁed the Outeniqua Choo-
Tjoe steam train service operating between George and
Mossel Bay as one of its non-core assets. Following extensive
mechanism to force freight off the roads onto rail? Finally,
these projects would have to be funded and managed
outside the parastatals.
“Just ask Airports Company SA MD Monhla Hlahla, owner of
the R6.7bn King Shaka airport, what a burden unwanted and
capital- intensive projects are.”
PRASA FACTS & FIGURES
From a 36-page Prasa booklet –
2.2 million passenger trips, Monday-Friday.
468 stations, 3,180km of track.
406 trainsets – 4,638 coaches.
3.970 million passengers per year.
1,223 active coaches.
21 scheduled routes.
Premier classe, Tourist Class, Economy class.
Baggage & car transport.
Autopax – Translux & City-to-City:
2.6 million passengers per year.
50,000 bus trips per year.
42.2 million kilometres per year.
374 rail commuter stations.
4,200 hectares of land.
Rolling stock general overhauls & upgrades:
Metro 700 = 2009/10, 700 = 2010/11, 700 = 2011/12.
S Meyl 30 = 2009/10, 40 = 2010/11, 50 = 2011/12.
Buses 0 = 2009/10, 240 = 2010/11, 200 = 2011/12.
INTERCITY TRAINS SUSPENDED
A dispute between Transnet and the Passenger Rail
Agency of South Africa (Prasa) resulted in all Shosholoza
Meyl long-distance passenger train services throughout
the country being suspended for an indeﬁnite period from
14 August. The shutdown affected Transnet Freight Rail
employees and pensioners who are entitled to travelling
concessions on what are now Prasa-owned trains.
The disagreement centred around maintenance undertaken
on behalf of Prasa and also a substantial sum reportedly
owing by Prasa to Transnet in respect of work done on
Prasa deployed buses from its Autopax subsidiary to provide
SA RAIL NEWS
Shosholoza Meyl intercity trains: August total shutdown. Photo: Eugene Armer.
Metrorail train at Cape Town’s new Century City station. Photo: Malcolm Bates.
SA RAIL NEWS
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201020 www.railwaysafrica.com
SA RAIL NEWS
studies and stakeholder consultation, the company decided
to follow an open tender process to ﬁnd a new operator.
“Unfortunately, this process could not identify a new
operator and as a result, Transnet was left with no option
other than to terminate the service subject to the required
approval by the Minister of Public Enterprises in terms of
the Public Finance Management Act. This has since been
ﬁnalised. The Outeniqua Transport Museum in George will
remain open to the public.
“The requisite consultation with organised labour has taken
place through the company’s engagement structures.
The George-to-Mossel Bay Line, on which the Choo-Tjoe
service is currently operated, is part of the Southern Cape
cluster of branch lines that have been identiﬁed to be
concessioned to a private operator. This concessioning
process is being undertaken by Transnet through an open,
competitive process. Further announcements on branch
line concessioning will follow in due course.
“Transnet and the MEC for ﬁnance, economic development
and tourism of the provincial government of the Western
Cape, have been in discussions regarding the George-
Knysna line, which was severely damaged in 2006 by
ﬂoods. The intention is to ensure that tourism and other
opportunities are unlocked on this line through the
facilitation of the provincial government. Further details of
this process will be announced in due course.”
MEC for ﬁnance, economic development and tourism in the
Western Cape Alan Winde followed Transnet’s notice with
the following statement: -
“Despite Transnet’s announcement that they will terminate
the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe train service, I remain resolute in
my commitment to reviving it and ensuring that it remains a
vital part of the South Cape’s heritage and tourism offering.
“The Choo-Tjoe railway line between Knysna and George
was built in 1922* and handed over to Transnet’s Heritage
Preservation unit in 1993. It carried an annual average
of 115,000, mostly foreign tourists, until 2006, when
severe storms damaged the line. Since then, the Choo-
Tjoe has operated between George and Mossel Bay, and
has continued to generate international interest from rail
enthusiasts, as well as economic spin-offs in the Garden
“Transnet reports that they are left with no option other
than to terminate the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe service in its
entirety. Their decision came after an open tender process
did not yield any positive applicants to take over its
operations, which they state have become ﬁnancially
unviable. Transnet hoped to privatise the Choo-Tjoe in line
with their policy of moving away from non-core business.
“I am eagerly awaiting the ﬁnal outcome of our negotiations
with Transnet to take over the George to Knysna line. I will
also keep a close eye on further developments regarding
the privatisation process of other branch-lines.”
[*A small correction: the George-Knysna line was opened in
1928 – Editor]
Australia’s Resource Generation (Resgen), described as
a prominent new coal player on the Johannesburg Stock
Exchange, is involved in ambitious schemes including
raising R2.5 billion to help fund new rail lines. The group
plans to construct a large new coal mine in the Waterberg,
close to the Botswana border. The likely start-up cost
would be in the region of R6 billion.
The objective is to produce 3 million tons annually (mta)
of coal for sale to Eskom from 2013 and another 3 million
tons for export, “with strong interest from India and China.”
That is in phase one. Phase two will see production reaching
40mta by 2018.
Rail connections are envisaged to move the coal to
Eskom power stations and to the coast, both Matola in
Mozambique and Richards Bay being possibilities.
Resgen CE Paul Jury is quoted saying: “We are not trying
to tackle this in any small way,” and explaining that “We’re
in discussions with Transnet, taking them solutions, rather
than waiting for them to ﬁnd solutions”. The group is to
contribute R4m to the current surveying of a rail route
from eastern Botswana to the Atlantic coast in Namibia.
CIC Energy is involved in this project, to export coal from
its own Mmamabula mine in Botswana. However, Jury
told the press, Resgen is prepared to put up “at least”
R2.5 billion towards additional rail infrastructure in
TFR TO BOOST LIMPOPO
Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) is set to reduce the cost of fruit
transport in Limpopo from R1.9 billion to R1.7 billion over
the next ﬁve years. This is provided that TFR gains 35% of
the fruit producers’ transport share. This in turn will reduce
the number of road trucks annually transporting citrus fruit
to the port from 55,000 trips to 32,000 which will drastically
reduce the carbon footprint of citrus from 56 million tons
to a more acceptable 25 million tons.
The move follows “collaborative partnership discussions”
between TFR and the Departments of Road and Transport,
Agriculture and Economic Development in Limpopo. The
province is responsible for 30% of the country’s citrus and
45% of South Africa’s Valencia exports. TFR transported a
mere 5% of this in 2009. “Increased road transport costs,
congestion on the roads as well as the deteriorating state
of some of the roads have necessitated a re-think on how
best to enhance the proﬁtability of the agricultural sectorFlood-damaged Knysna line. Photo: Peter Rogers.
Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe at Mossel Bay. Photo: Richard Clatworthy
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SA RAIL NEWS
in Limpopo and rail is in a position to do just that”, TFR
general manager, container and automotive business
Themba Gwala explains.
TFR’s corridor-focused approach, its integration with the
ports as well as its ability to support intermodal growth
by consolidation, access and transhipment has seen the
company gain market share in this highly competitive
industry. “The growth of rail-based container volumes
supports the national interest because it alleviates
congestion on the national road network and reduces
the cost of logistics in South Africa”, TFR acting chief
executive Tau Morwe says.
AfDB TO LEND TO TRANSNET
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a
loan of up to $US400 million to help Transnet fund some of
the rail projects in its ﬁve-year, R93.4 billion capital
investment programme. The group plans to spend a
record R22.8 billion in 2010-11, most of it on rail-related
The AfDB loan adds to some R4 billion that Transnet
previously secured from other development-ﬁnance
institutions and export credit agencies over the past few
years. The other key sources of concessional funding
included: Agence Française de Développement, Finnvera,
Atradius, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation
and Aﬂac Incorporated
Transnet pursued the AfDB loan as part of a larger
funding, which would involve it raising some R41.1 billion
over the next ﬁve years, R35 billion of which would arise
from the debt capital markets. A further R73.1 billion is to
be generated internally.
The group plans to source around R17.2 billion in 2010/11,
including R5.5 billion from an as-yet-untapped global
medium term note programme, which has been listed
in London. According to AfDB, the loan will help fund
Transnet Freight Rail’s (TFR’s) capitalised maintenance
plan, which forms part of the parastatal’s overall investment
programme. In 2009/10, TFR spent R6.9 billion on rail
National Department of Transport (DoT) director-general
George Mahlalela says the the long-mooted commuter
rail corridor between Tshwane and Moloto, which may
be developed jointly with the provincial governments of
Gauteng and Mpumalanga is “rail priority number one” on
the drawing board. Currently government spends R350
million annually in subsidising workers’ bus travel between
Tshwane and KwaNdebele. A feasibility study has been
completed for the project, which has been registered
with the Treasury as a public-private partnership (PPP).
TRANSNET CONCEDES COAL LINE PROBLEMS
Talking to the press during June, acting Transnet CEO
Chris Wells conceded that Transnet Freight Rail was
largely to blame for the disappointing performance of the
Richards Bay export coal line. This was after taking into
account the downturn in the coal export market related to
the recession, as well as seasonal problems in output
from the mines. Annual volumes carried on the line have
decreased every year for the last ﬁve, from 68.8 million
tons in 2005-6 to 61.8 million in 2009-10. In 2004-5, “world-
class” performance was claimed.
Transnet is determined to put the situation to rights, Wells
says, pointing out that during the ﬁnal quarter of the
ﬁnancial year to 31 March 2010, volumes conveyed grew
Transnet is working with the coal industry to get actual
performance closer to the 70 million tons per year (mta)
current available capacity, and to raise throughput to
81mta by 2014/15. Even higher levels are foreseen
thereafter –between 90 and 100mta.
However, upgrading of the order of R15 billion needed
to meet such targets would depend on Transnet securing
take-or-pay contracts from the mines, but they would only
participate if they were conﬁdent about market prospects.
Recent upgrading means that the Richards Bay
Coal Terminal can handle 91mta, but the railway – according
to Wells – is “only one impediment to matching that capacity,
inadequacy of mining capacity being the other.”
Current contracts between Transnet and the mines remain
short-term, until expansion plan details are ﬁnalised.
TRANSNET, IRON-ORE AND MANGANESE
By contrast with the situation on the coal line, Transnet has
already signed contracts with both Kumba and Assmang to
raise iron ore throughput to 60.7 million tons per year (mta)
Export volumes on the iron-ore line from Sishen to Saldanha
Bay grew by 21.5% to 44.7 million tons in 2009/10 and plans
envisage raising this ﬁgure to some 50 million tons in 2010/11.
Transnet is talking to both the iron-ore and manganese mine
companies about “the next big expansion.”
The iron-ore entities want to increase yearly exports to 80
million tons; the manganese mines have a ﬁgure of at least
14mta in view. This compares with the current upper limit of
only 7mta through the harbour at Port Elizabeth.
The manganese industry would prefer to share the Saldanha
line with iron-ore trafﬁc but Transnet is still considering
the possibilities of exploiting the new Ngqura harbour in
the Eastern Cape. Feasibility studies are being carried out
jointly with the industry, “with the support of an independent
W CAPE METRORAIL: “NEAR TERMINAL DECLINE”
The following was taken from an article in Blits, newsletter of
Western Cape Metrorail, on 5 August 2010. It was reprinted
from the Cape Argus:
SA RAIL NEWS
RAILWAYS AFRICA July - August 201022 www.railwaysafrica.com
SA RAIL NEWS
“Let nobody deceive themselves, Metrorail in the Western
Cape is in near terminal decline. We have this on no lesser
authority that the national minister of transport. Speaking
in the National Council of Provinces in February, he said
that unless there was urgent and signiﬁcant investment
in Metrorail, then the commuter rail systems would collapse
in every major city in SA in the next 10 years. ’There has
been no such investment, and to the best of my knowledge,
none is planned, despite government promises of massive
infrastructural investment. If Cape Metrorail collapses, it will
take the whole public transport system down with it, and
all our very real hopes and plans for creating a great world
city will turn to dust. Greater Cape Town will become an
urban sprawl, its transport arteries clogged and congested;
its atmosphere even more polluted; its economy stagnating
and its apartheid conﬁguration forever institutionalised.
‘Currently, Metrorail carries over half of our commuters. It
operates on less than 60% of the trainsets it requires. Those
it has are, to the greatest extent, long past their scrapping
date. The result is grossly overcrowded peak hour trains
that are almost invariably late, often because a train ahead
of them has broken down.
‘At the heart of the deteriorating quality of rail infrastructure is
the national government’s underinvestment in rail services.
As the rolling stock deteriorates and the infrastructure
crumbles, the number of Metrorail passengers has increased
by 150,000 over the last 3 years as the current economic
recession bites. I have seen at ﬁrst-hand the misery of the
daily commute to work or school, particularly for women and
schoolchildren on my numerous train trips since becoming
minister. Bluntly, the current state of rail passenger services
is an affront to the human dignity of commuters.
‘We need at least 40 additional trainsets to provide decent
passenger rail services. The greatest needs are on the
Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain lines and on the section from
Kraaifontein to Bellville. We need trains that get people to
work on time, that are safe and that operate for 18 hours a
day, and don’t close down at 7.00 pm. We need scheduled
road-based transport that gets commuters to the stations,
or to their destinations in areas where there is no rail
transport. But above all, Metrorail needs to be recapitalised.
‘What then is the problem? Prasa’s capital requirements
have been known to its parent Department of National
Transport for years. National Transport does not have a
budget to meet those capital requirements.
‘Successful cities and urban regions around the world
are investing heavily in public transport, with signiﬁcant
beneﬁts for their citizens, the environment, the economy
and in the reduction of energy costs. In the end, we have
learned that nothing more profoundly determines the future
of our cities - for better or worse - than their public transport
BIG MANGANESE PRODUCTION BOOST
Kalagadi Manganese –a new manganese mine project at
a cost of more than R2.2 billion near Hotazel in the Northern
Cape - will be the South African Industrial Development
Corporation’s (IDC) biggest investment in the 2010-11
ﬁnancial year. The expected output is to be some 3m tons
Construction of a sinter plant at the mine has begun and
in May 2011, work is to start on a manganese smelter at
Coega in the Eastern Cape. In 2009, the Rio Tinto group
dropped plans to build a major aluminium smelter at Coega,
citing concerns about the cost and supply of electricity.
However, says IDC divisional executive (resources) Uﬁkile
Khumalo, the Kalagadi smelter “is a very robust project”.
The complete scheme is expected to cost about R12 billion.
ArcelorMittal, which has a 50% stake, has agreed to buy
50% of the output from the sinter plant and smelter, to
supply its steel mills across the world.
Khumalo is quoted saying that about 700,000 tons from
the sinter plant will be consumed at the smelter, the rest
going for export. If all goes according to plan, the ﬁrst
production from the smelter - which will produce about
320,000 tons of high-carbon ferromanganese a year - should
be seen in 2015.
The transport implications of the project have not been
spelled out at this stage, but impact very obviously on the
railway between Hotazel and the Eastern Cape, together
with its recently completed connection to the new harbour
COMPELLING INSIGHT FROM ORIGINAL RESEARCH
SA RAIL NEWS
July - August 2010 RAILWAYS AFRICA 23www.railwaysafrica.com