A 90-wagon export manganese train on the Noupoort – Port Elizabeth line hauled by four Class 20E dual-voltage locomotives supplied by CRRC Zhuzhou (Photo: Bruce Evans).

SOUTH AFRICA: Rising demand for manganese from steel mills has prompted Transnet Freight Rail to launch a programme to drive up capacity for handling manganese ore on its 1 067 mm gauge network. Manganese traffic has grown from around 5 million tonnes a year in 2012 to 12·8 million tonnes last year, with trains moving the ore from a mining complex at Hotazel to various ports. Last month Transnet ran a 375-wagon test train with distributed power on the 861 km Sishen – Saldanha iron ore line to determine whether longer trains could be used to raise capacity for manganese. Rail could then capture around 1·2 million tonnes a year that currently moves by road from mine to port. Iron ore trains on the Sishen – Saldanha route usually consist of 342 wagons hauled by eight electric and diesel-electric locomotives. If Transnet succeeds in running 375-wagon manganese trains on a regular basis, at 4 km long they would be the longest production trains in the world, each carrying around 22 500 tonnes of manganese ore. South Africa’s main manganese export harbour is Port Elizabeth, but Transnet intends to switch the manganese traffic to the newer harbour at Coega, about 20 km further north. Already known as the ‘Manganese Line’, the Noupoort – Port Elizabeth route is to be upgraded to handle higher axleloads. Other routes are also in line for upgrades.