CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Spoornet Dolly Mokgatle is promising a turnround to meet the South African government’s objective of a profitable state enterprise.

Addressing the media on May 13, she said ’there is not a single moment that we as Spoornet and Transnet are not mindful of our awesome responsibility to the South African economy ... we are at the heart of it all.’ Describing a run-down company perceived by customers as ’unpunctual, inflexible and costly’ with insufficient critical skills and ’employee morale at rock bottom’, she outlined a three-stage Plan of Action with Mobilisation during 2004-05, Development during 2005-07 and Value Extraction during 2007-09.

Mokgatle said Spoornet was now differentiating service to customers with ’base load traffic conveyed by rail and the variable peak demand covered by road’. A new operating model catered for three categories of business: megaRAIL covered large, consistent volumes of traffic and represented nearly 78% of tonnage and two-thirds of revenue; flexiRAIL covered less-frequent flows of traffic representing just 4% of tonnage and 5·4% of revenue; and accessRAIL embraced small, irregular consignments where all demand was met on a first-come, first-served basis - these represented just over 17% of tonnage and nearly 28% of income.

To achieve efficiency improvements, a capital investment programme worth R14bn over five years will be implemented, with 90% of this earmarked for rehabilitation and renewal of infrastructure, locomotives and wagons. Heavy-haul and high-density routes will enjoy priority, with upgraded locos offering a 40% improvement in reliability and a cut in maintenance costs of 55%. New wagons will be acquired to increase typical capacity from 45 to 60 tonnes, and roller bearings will be introduced to allow speeds to rise from 60 to 80 km/h.

All this ’hinges on attracting, retaining and motivating a skilled workforce’, insisted Mokgatle. A change management programme will bring a culture change across the business, and a sweeping reorganisation will see a small divisional head office established to handle Spoornet’s corporate strategy, policy, legal and financial compliance. Other tasks will be handled by Transnet’s Business Services unit. At the operational level a national customer service centre will be set up, together with network operations centres and service delivery zones.