May 28, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Major rail expansion on the cards for SA

The Department for Transport is proposing to replicate the Gautrain’s success in other areas of the country.

This could lead to the introduction of a service between Cape Town and the Winelands; on the Durban and surrounding metro system; between Gauteng and Polokwane; Gauteng and Rustenburg to the northwest; and one running from Mthatha to Gqeberha via East London.

The Department has released its much-anticipated National Railway Policy White Paper for public comment. The white paper — a policy document that includes proposals for future legislation — aims to make rail the bedrock of the country’s transportation needs, shifting both passengers and freight from the roads to an intensive national rail network that is reliable, fast, safe and efficient.

To achieve this, the white paper proposes a complete overhaul of the national rail network from the current narrow cape gauge, which limits loading capacity and train speeds to a maximum of 80 km/h, to a wider standard gauge in front of the line, which allows heavier loads to be transported at higher speeds.

The possibility of introducing high-speed trains, running at speeds of 300 km/h and faster over longer distances and operating on a dedicated network, should also be in place.

The White Paper continues to encourage the involvement of the private sector actor in freight and passenger rail operations and the transfer of urban rail transport to municipalities that have the capacity to manage it. It puts rail as the most energy-efficient mode of transport at the heart of climate protection initiatives.

The whitepaper’s authors said the Gautrain’s success was proof that a regional S-Bahn system covering longer distances and higher speeds were for the country is vital to life.

“It allows people to travel from peripheral areas to metropolitan areas, reach them over longer distances, or traverse them as urbanization grows, without contributing to congestion or congestion growls therein.”

They propose inter-regional rail passenger transport with trains running at speeds between 160 km/h and 200 km/h and stretching over a few hundred kilometres.

The proposed routes would be the Minimize the number of cars that regularly use these routes.

The white paper also proposes that the Department conduct feasibility studies on the introduction of a high-speed Sch traffic performs over time. Such a service could shift both freight and passenger loads from air and road to rail by 2050; However, this would be a costly endeavor as high-speed trains require their own dedicated routes that cannot be shared with slower trains.

“High-speed trains operating at 300 km/h or more require dedicated infrastructure. The triple link between line capacity, track maintenance and crashworthiness is just too big to consider slow traffic on high-speed lines.”

It calls for greater third-party involvement in both freight and passenger operations. It found that SA’s (Prasa) Passenger Rail Service was underfunded and unable to provide optimal service, hence the need to use third-party operators on routes where it underperformed or where it did not operate passenger services .

It also calls for more competition on all freight routes where Transnet Freight Rail is struggling to meet demand due to insufficient rolling stock and theft and vandalism of its infrastructure.

Transnet has recently made bids for 16 slots on the container corridor between City Deep and Durban and the line between Tshwane and East London/Gqeberha to third party operators. However, it has been criticized for making slots available for 24 months, a period deemed insufficient by a number of potential third-party providers.

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