TRANSNET has reopened the 200km Cookhouse - Blaney line in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, following a Rand 26m ($US 1.7m) rehabilitation, which has increased the axle load on the line to 18 tonnes.

The line, which provides a connection between the East London industrial development zone and the Coega industrial development zone in Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, is projected to carry 30,000 tonnes of freight per annum. The branch line will also provide an alternative to the Gqeberha line in the event of disruption between Cookhouse and De Aar. The line has been unused for the past five years and was closed by the Railway Safety Regulator in 2018 due to maintenance concerns.

Transnet says the line was reopened in response to growing demand for the transport of auto parts, cement, containers, beverages and other consumer products between Gqeberha and East London, with opportunities identified for Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to carry additional volumes in the region.

The re-opening of the line is expected to:

  • reduce the cost of doing business in the province
  • migrate freight from road to rail, lowering the impact on the province’s road infrastructure
  • support and enable the growth and development of the Eastern Cape manufacturing sector and export footprint for agriculture and mining goods
  • create direct and indirect job opportunities, and
  • facilitate economic growth and ensure security of supply through the provision of appropriate rail infrastructure in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

“The re-opening of this branch line re-affirms our commitment to resuscitate economic development in regions that have been historically under-served in terms of infrastructure investment,” says Transnet group chief executive, Ms Portia Derby. “The line, which is a link between two strategic economic hubs in the Eastern Cape, will reduce the cost of doing business for the movement goods between these two cities.”

“For TFR, the reopening of this branch line is a massive achievement and fits squarely with Transnet's strategy to contribute to our country’s economic recovery,” says TFR chief executive, Ms Sizakele Mzimela. “In addition to job creation opportunities, our sincere hope is to help stimulate economic growth by looking at ways we can connect with the communities this line touches, on key maintenance projects. This means creating longer-term, sustainable opportunities beyond the one-off refurbishment.”