Tansnet freight train

SOUTH AFRICA: State railway and port company Transnet has invited expressions of interest in buying train paths on two key freight corridors as a pilot scheme for wider rail reform.

Opening up access to the rail network forms part of a reform process set out in a 2017 white paper. This envisages eventual vertical separation, with Transnet as infrastructure manager and operations by third parties as well as incumbent Transnet Freight Rail.

The pilot project aims to establish costs and pricing models. It covers two routes: the 714 km Container Corridor from the port of Durban to inland terminals in City Deep, Kascon, Pretcon, Kaalfontein and private sidings in Gauteng; and the South Corridor linking Gauteng with the ports of East London and indirectly Port Elizabeth, serving the agricultural and automotive sectors.

Access would be sold on a take-or-pay basis for a 24-month period starting this year, with six paths on the Container Corridor between Durban and City Deep and 10 paths between East London and Springfontein.

Operators are expected to launch services within a month of the paths being awarded, and allocation would favour bidders who would make the most efficient use of the slots.

Transnet current grants to paths to passenger operator PRASA, approved branch line operators, luxury train operator Rovos Rail and heritage steam operators.

It said ‘controlled and mandated’ third party access is expected to increase services and capacity, drive innovation, provide funding for investment and reduce the cost of logistics for the national economy.