SA railway network collapsing under ANC-rule
24 November 2010 Leave a comment
CAPE TOWN – Parliament: Nov 23 2010. South Africa’s once-proud 20,000-km railway network is in serious decline, with 3,255 km now totally unuseable. This admission was made by the country’s public enterprises Minister in parliament. Moreover, there are no plans by the government to repair those closed lines: instead they plan to award concessions to private operators who are expected to reopen and maintain the lines. The Eastern Cape has the biggest problem, with a whopping 1,202 km of closed branch-lines. (entire statement reproduced below). South Africa’s collapsing railway system also causes much higher food-prices because it now needs to import 90% of all its wheat from off-continent through its harbours.
Another major problem is the high level of violent crime on SA commuter trains — and its increasingly poor maintenance causing a great many derailments of goods-trains and even passenger trains. The latest high-publicity event being an April 2010 derailment of a Cape Town to Pretoria luxury tourist train run by the private concession Rovos Rail – killing three people and leaving nine critically injured. Most of the 55 passengers were tourists from Europe and the USA.
Ever since railways were invented, they were also very quickly utilised to create South Africa’s first public transportation infrastructure. All its major cities are connected by a narrow-guage rail network — indeed South Africa‘s 20,000 kilometre-railway system is the most highly developed in Africa. The South African rail industry is publicly owned. The first track for steam-powered locomotives was a line of about 2 miles (3.2 km) linking the Town of Durban with harbour point, opened on the 26th June 1860. Cape Town ‘s colonial British government started building a 45-mile (72 km) line linking Cape Town to Wellington in 1859 and opened its first section of the line to the Eerste River on 13 February 1862.
The Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State at the same time, also imported many Dutch railway-engineers and rolling stock from The Netherlands and Germany. During the period when the British colonial forces were planning to invade the Boer Republics, the railway grid between Cape Town and the Boer Republics became interlinked in 1898, creating a national transportation network. This national network was largely completed by 1910. Rail-lines extended as far north as present-day Zambia and the present Maputo in Mozambique.
During the apartheid-era, South Africa became famous for its luxury rail lines, most notably the Blue Train, which ran from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The Blue Line was frequently named as the best luxury train line in the world, and the 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) run was a popular tourist attraction for South Africa. However, the highway system has caused the decline of long distance passenger travel. Many commuters still use rail for their daily commute, but nationally, only half of the nation’s 20,000 kilometres (12,000 mi) of track are being fully utilized, and some 35% of the nation’s track carries no activity or very low activity. crime on SA commuter-train network : http://www.iss.co.za/pgcontent.php?UID=13494
Poor maintenance creates dangerous hazards on SA rail network:
On 29 Sep 2010, journalist Bronwyn Gerretsen reported in The Mercury that the government-run Transnet rail service was ‘teetering on the brink of disaster.’ “Maintenance issues, capacity problems and general unreliability are plung the national rail ‘company’ into a shambles. A tree even grows in the middle of a railway line in Koffiefontein in the Free State…. Workers were frustrated by lengthy period without work because the overhauling of locomotives was done in Johannesburg when the work could be done at depots in KwaZulu. Finding spare parts took long periods. And its causing major problems for businesses and the distribution of food…”
Only 26 percent of grain transported by rail now – in the 1980s that was 85 percent…
At a time when South Africa ‘s commercial agricultural sector is being destroyed, it now has to import more than 90% of its wheat from off-continent. However the country’s shocking railway infrastructure also means that most of the wheat has to be transported by the much more expensive road-transport system. Jannie de Villiers, executive director at the Chamber of Milling, said there “had been talks to privatise rail on some smaller routes, but that these lines were in “a shocking condition”, if they even existed after vandalism and theft. The chamber’s members were forced to pay 20 to 30 percent more to transport produce by road. “We may ask for two railway wagons and only get one. Then there may be no driver or no locomotive. And if the load is transported… only half arrives at its destination because the wagon door… is damaged.” These problems also contributed to rising food costs, said De Villiers. In the 1980s, 85 percent of all grain was transported by rail. At the moment, this figure stood at 26 percent.
- De Villiers feared that ‘ South Africa would not be able to import produce in the event of severe drought because of the inadequate rail service. ‘
Cement industry spends R4billion a year on rail transport…
- ‘derailments all the time, very little maintenance…’
A representative of a cement manufacturer said the industry spent about R4 billion a year on rail transport, meaning that Transnet’s problems impacted heavily on their businesses. The motor industry was also relying more on road transport than rail, owing to both cheaper cost and better service. A representative of a company which transports vehicles by rail said Transnet “have a major problem at the moment – there are derailments all the time, and there is very little maintenance on both the lines and the trains.”
- Phalaborwa Mining Company affected by derailed train which destroyed Brakspruit Bridge:
- A derailment in September 2010 of a train loaded with phosphate resulted in the complete collapse of the Brakspruit Bridge, about 50km from Phalaborwa. This would “significantly” affect operations at the Phalaborwa Mining Company, said its managing director, Anthony Lennox. Transnet blames its problems with damaged locomotives and overall capacity on ‘decades of infrastructure neglect (it’s apartheid’s fault…) and vandalism It denies experiencing any maintenance or operational difficulties whatsoever http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=108&t=7631 http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-238347420.html