Home » Transnet Restores Partial Service to Key South African Coal Export Line

Transnet Restores Partial Service to Key South African Coal Export Line

Recovery Efforts Continue After Train Collision Disrupts Coal Exports

by Adenike Adeodun

Transnet, South Africa’s freight rail operator, announced late Thursday that it has partially resumed services on a crucial line connecting to the country’s main coal export terminal. This comes four days after a collision between two trains disrupted operations.

The first of two lines leading to the Richards Bay coal terminal has been cleared and is now safe for train passage, according to a statement by Transnet. According to a report by Mining Weekly, the operator expects services on the second line to be fully operational by Saturday.

This disruption, which began on Sunday morning following the collision, impacted mineral shipments already constrained by shortages of locomotives, as well as widespread cable theft and vandalism of infrastructure.

Major coal miners in the region, including Thungela Resources and Exxaro Resources, have stated that they do not foresee the derailment significantly affecting their coal exports. However, these companies have faced challenges for years due to Transnet’s limited capacity for hauling commodities to ports, a result of equipment shortages and maintenance backlogs following decades of underinvestment.

To cope with Transnet’s constrained transport capacity, some companies, such as Thungela and Kumba Iron Ore, Africa’s leading iron ore exporters, have had to reduce production. A few miners resorted to transporting coal by road to the port, which is more costly and environmentally detrimental than rail transport.

In November, Transnet, which also operates South Africa’s ports, introduced restrictions on truck access to the Richards Bay port. This decision was prompted by “unprecedented congestion” in the coastal town, reflecting the broader challenges facing South Africa’s commodity transportation infrastructure.

This incident and its fallout underscore the ongoing logistical challenges in South Africa’s mining sector and the crucial role of efficient infrastructure in supporting the country’s key export industries.

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