In a $US 17.3m deal, South African rail financier Thelo Rolling Stock supplied the first of four mainline RL30SCC-3 diesel-electric locomotives and 75 Transnet-built ore wagons which will be put to work hauling magnetite trains "and other exports" between Phalaborwa and Richards Bay on the north-south corridor which cuts across Swaziland, a Thelo spokesman said.

The SR locomotives are being jointly supplied by Illinois-based National Railway Equipment Company (NREC) and South African locomotive builder and railway equipment supplier RRL Grindrod. The rolling stock has been supplied to SR on a 10-year lease.

Swaziland's 301km network previously hired its rolling stock from its neighbours, firstly from Mozambican national rail operator Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique and then after Mozambican independence in 1975, from South Africa.

Meanwhile, plans to build a new railway from Lothair in Mpumalanga to connect to the Swaziland network at Sidvokodvo are well advanced as Transnet seeks to relieve congestion on its critical Ermelo -Richards Bay heavy-haul coal line.

The 146km railway will cost an estimated Rand 17bn ($US 1.5bn) and is expected to carry its first trains in 2017. Swaziland Railway will build 96km inside Swaziland, with Transnet constructing the South African portion.

Thelo estimates the project will create 3400 construction-related jobs in South Africa and 2700 in Swaziland, with railway operations sustaining another 500 jobs in South Africa and 300 in Swaziland.