Photo: Duane Daws

Photo: Duane Daws

South Africa-based engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald PDNA (MMPDNA) states that it is currently finalising the feasibility stage of State-owned rail operator Transnet’s R17-billion Swaziland link railway project.

The project entails the construction of 146 km of new railway line, which will run from Lothair, in Mpumalanga, to Sidvokodvo, in Swaziland, to complete the connection to Maputo, in Mozambique, and Richards Bay, in KwaZulu-Natal.

“This is currently the biggest rail project we are working on,” MMPDNA rail andtransportation practice lead Mike Hood tells Engineering News.

He notes that the initial motivation behind this project was to remove general freight traffic off the coal line between Ermelo and the Port of Richards Bay, and release capacity to increase coal export volumes.

Hood explains that Transnet projects run through a four-stage cycle, known as front-end-loading (FEL) phases. FEL-1 is the conceptual design phase of the project during which different design options are identified.

In FEL-2, the level of engineering definition is increased and the most viable of the options arrived at in FEL-1 are developed. Design options can be rejected on the basis of spatial,environmental or geometric constraints.

“The Swaziland link project is currently in the FEL-3 phase of the project. A single design option has been selected and MMPDNA is completing the processes that will enableTransnet to take the design to tender.

“FEL-4 will entail inviting contractors to submit bids to start construction of the project,” he says, noting that the design of the four-year-old project will be finalised before the end of the year.

Hood asserts that this project is the largest undertaken by Transnet since the construction of the coal line, which runs from Mpumalanga to Richards Bay.
MMPDNA MD Dempsey Naidoo notes that there is currently a moratorium on diversified natural resources company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation’s (ENRC’s) Nacala logistics project – which will be used to export coal and entails the laying of 1 200 km of track and the construction of a port interface at Nacala, on the northern coast of Mozambique – until negotiations between the Mozambiquegovernment and ENRC have been concluded.

“The Nacala project has been put on hold, as there have been changes to the ENRC’s strategy, and the Mozambique government has changed the ownership status of the concession,” he explains.

Naidoo says the project has progressed from the conceptual phase to a reference design. The tender process is expected to start once the way forward for the project has been clarified.

The rail portion of the Nacala logistics project involves laying a new standard gauge track from Tete province to Nacala. The rail project is valued at $7-billion and also entails the installation of port-interface materials handling equipment such as stacker reclaimers.