INVESTMENT totalling R78bn over the next five years was announced by Maria Ramos, CEO of South Africa's state-owned transport holding group Transnet, on July 23. The money is intended 'to expand the capacity of our ports, rail freight and pipeline assets', she said.

Ramos was speaking at the launch of a new logo and branding for 'New Transnet', which she said marked a change from 'a troubled past' to 'a bright future with new challenges'. As part of the restructuring, Transnet is transferring its passenger operations – including airline SAA and Spoornet's passenger rail services - to the Department of Transport. Spoornet is being rebranded as Transnet Freight Rail, whilst the rolling stock manufacturing and repair business Transwerk becomes Transnet Rail Engineering.

Out of the total investment, TFR will spend R34bn on upgrading and expanding the rail network, according to CEO Siyabonga Gama. He envisages that capacity will be increased by up to 30% by 2011, with annual revenue rising from R15bn to R25bn over the five years. Up to 500 new locomotives are to be ordered, with the purchase of 404 already approved. Gama said that plans for vertical separation of infrastructure and operations being studied by Spoornet had been abandoned.

Work has started on the construction of a rail link to the new port of Ngquera near Port Elizabeth, at a cost of R817m, according to TFR Finance Director Johan Bouwer. Plans are being drawn up to close the 298 km gap in the electrification of the Johannesburg – Port Elizabeth line between Bloemfontein and Noupoort, and electrification of the second track on the 238 km Kimberley – De Aar line is to start in July 2008.

The Department of Transport has allocated R16bn to fund passenger rail services over the next three years, including R1bn for reconstruction of 500 suburban EMUs to Class 10M4 Series 2 units, with new bodies and electrical equipment on refurbished underframes and bogies.