Transnet is moving ahead with projects to boost the volume of coal carried from the coalfields to the port of Richards Bay and Maputo, says GM capital planning Brian Monakali.
He told delegates attending the IHS Markit South African Coal Export Conference, in Cape Town, this week, that some of the group’s plans and projects were at an advanced stage.
This included the doubling of the Overvaal tunnel, with the aim of boosting the network capacity from 81-million tonnes to beyond 132-million tonnes.
The expansion project will develop a second line within 20 m of the 4-km-long railway line near Ermelo, in Mpumalanga.
“All the design work has been completed. The team is reviewing the entire package to ensure the solution is the most optimum one,” said Monakali.
Although the cost of the tunnel was projected to be high, Transnet was hoping to reduce the costs by working with the design team.
“It’s a challenge with current market challenges. We’d like to optimise the capital and do the project at a lower cost.”
He said a team had been to Germany and Norway to learn about their experiences.
“We’re looking at 2022 to get the project done. We have followed the normal governance processes to get to the next phase. We now need to go to the market to get a service provider to do the project.”
He said Transnet was also strengthening the Ermelo network to meet future demand, so that 200-wagon trains could run from the source.
“This would increase capacity and improve efficiency.”
Monakali said Transnet continued to carry out intensive maintenance on the current tunnel and was looking at implementing a more intelligent computer monitoring system to ensure its structure, which would accurately pick up any potential problems.
He said intensive maintenance was carried out monthly at the tunnel. The system is shut down for one day a month to do maintenance in the tunnel, with another ten days of intensive maintenance every year.
He said Transnet was also planning to further unlock the Waterberg coalfields by upgrading the line to enable it to carry more coal.
Transnet was also in a prefeasibility stage with Botswana Railways in a project to more easily transport Botswana’s growing reserves of coal to the ports of Richards Bay and Maputo.
Meanwhile, the Swaziland rail link, which involves the construction of a new 150 km link to Swaziland, had passed the feasibility phase and is ready to go to market to request funding, said Monakali.
The link would enable a dedicated general freight line and a separate coal line from Ermelo