Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has given Transnet the thumbs up for the ports and rail operator’s repair work to damaged road and rail infrastructure into the Port of Durban, which was severely impacted by the KwaZulu-Natal floods in April.
The reconstruction work around South Africa’s busiest port saw a milestone being marked on Monday, when Transnet reopened one of its rail lines on the container corridor between the port, in Durban’s South Industrial Basin, and Cato Ridge (west of the city).
Operations on the line have been suspended since April 11, 2022.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Gordhan commended Transnet for its “significant progress in undertaking repairs to operational areas damaged by the recent KwaZulu-Natal floods [which were declared a National Disaster].”
Transnet’s reopening of the rail line allows for rail operations to resume on the container corridor, which is a key economic channel on which container freight is moved between Durban and the economic hub of Gauteng.
“The recovery from the damage caused by the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal will enable exporters and importers that utilise the Port of Durban to return to normality, and Transnet will endeavour to ensure that all shipping lines continue to service the port,” the DPE noted.
Gordhan’s department said the reconstruction by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) involved four major aspects:
- Eleven key areas damaged on the railway line which had to be reconstructed between Durban and Cato Ridge;
- The reconstruction of parts of Bayhead Road, where 60m of the road had collapsed;
- The creation of a new access road to the Port of Durban; and,
- Maintenance of the railway line, which was brought forward.
“TFR is currently moving staged loads between Durban and Cato Ridge, which were prevented from reaching their destinations during the floods,” the DPE added.
Additional capacity is expected to be created on the mainline in September, when repairs on the second line are completed and it is reopened to traffic.
The department said the corridor’s “98% success rate during execution” will lead to significant improvement on the efficiency and reliability of the infrastructure, network renewal, removal of speed restrictions, theft prevention and resilience to extreme weather patterns.
Bayhead Road repairs
The restoration of a single rail line on the Durban-Cato Ridge corridor, follows TNPA’s successful commissioning on 10 June of a fourth lane on Bayhead Road, which is a key access road to the port.
“Bayhead Road, which leads to the Durban Container Terminals and the Island View Precinct in the port, was heavily impacted when parts of the road were washed away by the floods,” said the DPE.
It noted that TNPA successfully executed the first phase of the road’s reconstruction project on 16 April, a few days after the flooding, which included the stabilisation and opening of the road with one lane going in each direction. A third lane was opened on 8 May.
According to the department, 90% of the rehabilitation work (comprising design and construction) was executed by Transnet’s Rail Network Construction division and 10% was outsourced.
The DPE said 2 673 workers worked an estimated 1.9 million person-hours over 60 days, towards the opening of the line.
New bypass into the port
It added that an alternative bypass road, leading to the Durban Container Terminals and Island View Complex, has been identified. Once developed, this road is expected to further relieve congestion on Bayhead Road and in the port precinct in general.
“The removal of existing rail tracks and clearing of the bushes has since been completed, with earthworks and placement of pioneer layers currently in progress.”
“Work on the alternative bypass road is expected to be concluded towards the end of November 2022.”
Meanwhile, public-private organised business body the KZN Growth Coalition has also welcomed Transnet’s restoration of the rail infrastructure, saying this “has provided great relief to both the provincial government and businesses in the province”.
The coalition further applauded Transnet for employing more than 1 300 community members as fixed-term contract staff in its restoration programme.
“We are more than satisfied with the leadership shown by Transnet in getting the wheels of our economy moving again,” it said in a statement.
The DPE said more work still needs to be done in the Durban South Industrial Basin and that Transnet continues to work to ensure swift reconstruction.
Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.