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SA Department of Transport Considering New Rules to Encourage Greater Rail Use. Rail Elsewhere is Being Supported

The SA Department of Transport (DoT) is canvasing views on how best to attract freight back to SA’s struggling rail system from road. Road transport has emerged as the country’s freight backbone following Transnet Freight Rail’s (TFR’s) precipitous decline in recent years. Notwithstanding a long-standing road-to-rail policy, the DoT reports that 87% of freight is currently being moved by truck, while volumes moved by TFR have declined sharply from 226m tons in 2017/18 to only 149.5m tons in 2022/23. This calamitous collapse led President Ramaphosa to form the National Logistics Crisis Committee in 2023, as well as to the development of a new Freight Logistics Roadmap, which was approved by Cabinet late last year. The roadmap places emphasis on the introduction of private sector participation in both the port container terminals and the freight rail network. There are concerns that government may introduce restrictions on road transport, such as bans on weekend deliveries by heavy lorries, etc.

This follows research by the insurance giant Allianz, which shows that critical infrastructure blackouts have emerged as the number one risk for businesses in SA for the second consecutive year, highlighting the severe impact of power outages and the failure of essential infrastructure such as ports, railways, roads on SA’s economy and businesses.

Meanwhile, The DRC, Malawi and Zambia are to join Mozambique and Zimbabwe who have signed a memorandum of understanding over the Beira Corridor route. The development comes after Zimbabwe and Mozambique agreed to refurbish and extend the 10km railway line that stretches from Machipanda to Mutare, linking their 2 systems, within the next 3 months.

Alastair Tempest

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