SPOORNET’S Coalink business unit has ordered integrated braking and train controls from Westinghouse Air Brake Co for installation on a test train on the 420 km Ermelo - Richards Bay heavy haul corridor. Four Class7E1 electric locos will be fitted with EPIC electronic air brakes and PowerLink distributed power units, and 210 wagons will get ECP brakes by the end of this year, for up to six months of test running.

Project manager Dave Butler says studies are under way to evaluate the payback for converting the entire fleet of 95 locos and 6500 wagons at a cost of R195m. He hopes to start retrofitting in mid-2000 and complete the work in two years. He expects distributed power and graduated brake control to offer significant improvements in the handling of 200-wagon trains on the undulating route, reducing the risk of derailments and eliminating over 200 train separations each year. It should also cut the cost of wagon maintenance and boost line capacity.

  • Spoornet is expected to announce shortly the construction of a second coal export terminal at Richards Bay, which will boost capacity by 12 million tonnes a year and require the purchase of a further 1500 wagons for the Coalink fleet.