SOUTH African rail freight operator Transnet has announced that it will be engaging with the private sector to help encourage investment and growth in Transnet Freight Rail’s (TFR) intermodal freight business.

The operator says intermodal freight is “the backbone of the manufacturing sector” in South Africa. To encourage greater investment it will issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to help identify parties interested in taking a 20-year lease for operation and maintenance of the Container Corridor between Johannesburg and the Indian Ocean port of Durban.

Involving the private sector has the aim of encouraging a shift of intermodal traffic from road to rail to help achieve increased operational reliability and efficiency. One aspect is that in recent years a Port of Durban Decongestion Task Team has been seeking ways to alleviate heavy traffic at the port and on surrounding road networks which impact on residents of the city’s Bayhead Precinct.

The Container Corridor comprises a fully electrified double-track mainline running for 670km between Booth in KwaZulu-Natal and Union in Gauteng province. The fact the line is double-track and has several major marshalling yards along it brings the total track length to 1621km.

Transnet says the operating lease will help provide the investment needed for the rehabilitation, operation, upgrading and maintenance of the rail network and its rolling stock assets. The corridor also includes Durban’s Bayhead Back of Port Terminal as well as the inland freight terminals at City Deep and Kascon in Johannesburg, and at Bayhead in Durban.

Transnet says that at this stage the RFQ has the “sole purpose of providing general information about the Container Corridor and to assist interested parties in determining whether to respond to the RFQ.”

The RFQ will be made available on the Transnet website and the National Treasury e-tender portal and any respondents shortlisted may be invited to submit proposals to Transnet through a subsequent Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Transnet is wholly owned by the South African government and is also responsible for not only rail but also ports and pipeline infrastructure. However, last year saw it progressing a strategy of opening up the country’s rail network to private freight operators, including granting freight paths along the Cape Corridor to Traxtion Sheltam on a conditional basis.

In August 2022 South Africa’s finance minister, Mr Enoch Godongwana, said that Transnet was steadily improving both its performance and its financial position to enable greater investment.

The January 2023 edition of IRJ includes analysis of South Africa’s policy to introduce open-access operation on the country’s rail freight network. Digital subscribers can read the article here.