Transnet has no plans to change is rail gauge size from the existing metre wide Cape Gauge to the 1,4 metre wide standard gauge, its acting chief Chris Wells said on Wednesday.

He told Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications that the parastatal did not think it “appropriate” to change the network in the medium term.

“Unfortunately, we are all on the rail gauge known as the Cape Gauge, which is about a metre in width,” he said.

“There has been a lot of discussion of moving to standard gauge which is about 1,4 metres, and which will allow faster speeds.

“We don’t believe it is appropriate, primarily as the network in the medium term.”

Wells said the average age of Transnet’s 2000 locomotives was 30 years.

“We haven’t purchased a new locomotive for well over ten years, which has caused a lot of problems in performance,” he said.

“By the end of March 2011, some ten percent our rail fleet should be brand new. That is very significant for performance going forward.”

Wells said the port of Coega, outside Port Elizabeth, was “well positioned” to be a trans-shipment port between Asia and South America.

“Our new port at Coega is well-placed to be the midway between the large ships from the east to offload at that port and then return back and with short sea shipping up the coast of Africa or inland to South Africa,” he said.

He said Transnet was cooperating with port authority in Luanda, Angola to assist in “congestion” and “the utilisation of the Coega facilities in that regard”.

Plans were also under way to expand the coal port of Richard’s Bay, which was operating at a capacity of 90-million tons but had the infrastructural capacity for only 70-million tons.

“We are working with industry on planning to increase that to 81-million tons in medium term. The long term view is it should be 90-million tons plus.”

Group executive on capital projects Moira Moses told the committee that Transnet was waiting for approval to build a reverse osmosis plant which would convert sea water to use in dust control as part of its expanded iron ore line.

“We have been waiting for 15 months for the issuing of this approval,” she said.

“We estimate there has been R60-million impact on that project alone.”

If there is to be a drought, then a lot of work done to reduce environmental impact in Saldhana “will be for naught”.

Moses said the new pipeline for South African fuel supply for next 50 years was “well under way”.

“We have completed two 16-inch pipelines which feed the inland area and construction has begun in earnest with the main trunk linking Durban with Jameson Park.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
DATED: 3rd February 2010