The 70km line will connect Lothair, east of Transnet's Ermelo marshalling yard, joining the existing SR network at Matsapha. The Rand 12.3-16bn ($US 1.5-2bn) project involves upgrading the existing Ermelo - Lothair line in South Africa and the Matsapha - Phuzumoya line in Swaziland, which will be linked by a new 70km stretch of railway. A study funded by Transnet Freight Rail was completed last year.
The project is the missing link in a plan to develop an eastern corridor between the Mpumalanga coalfield, which generates more than 80% of South Africa's coal output, and the Indian Ocean port of Richards Bay.
The coal export terminal at Richards Bay was upgraded recently to increase its annual capacity to 91 million tonnes, but the heavy-haul line to Vryheid, which opened in 1974, only has capacity for 74 million tonnes of coal per year, and is carrying increasing volumes of general freight. The Swaziland route will allow general freight to be diverted away from the heavy-haul line, with volumes expected to reach around 15 million tonnes per year.
Swazi public works minister Mr Ntuthuko Dlamini says he is providing the political support for the project to be realised.