Home Business Transnet clears derailed train under armed guard as ‘tender mafia’ fears simmer

Transnet clears derailed train under armed guard as ‘tender mafia’ fears simmer

Transnet clears derailed train under armed guard as 'tender mafia' fears simmer

Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) says it has completed a complex recovery process with industry teams having cleared all 97 derailed wagons from the derailment site on its North Corridor yesterday morning.

However, the North Corridor rail line – which runs from the Mpumalanga coal fields to Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, with coal and chrome among the key commodities carried – is still not open for use, the TFR said in a statement on Monday, though the hardest part of the work was completed.

It said the work was carried out under heavy protection from various policing department, including the Traffic Department, the Flying Squad and the South African Police Services, who supported the transportation of the heavy-duty equipment amid fears of interference from the mysterious Ulundu Business Forum, which the utility suspects of sabotaging its infrastructure.

TFR called the clearing of the line a major feat , made possible through the collaborative efforts of a broad range of stakeholders, including Transnet’s customers and supply chain partners, who had provided the specialised heavy duty equipment.

“The Department of Transport… the Department of Public Enterprises, as well as the provinces of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng granted emergency approvals for the transportation of the abnormal equipment," it said.

TFR said it would be able to determine the extent of the damage, and say when normal train operations can commence, once the derailment site was completely cleared of spilled coal and debris. The force majeure remained in place as the rail line was still closed.

In a series of updates since the train derailed a week ago, the TFR has maintained that the train carrying export coal, en route to Richards Bay, derailed outside Intshamanzi, near Ulundi, due to "violent, extortion efforts by the Ulundi Business Forum".

It said it would be laying charges of violence, tampering with essential infrastructure, and extortion.

On the day of the derailment, the TFR said it was engaging with Amakhosi and the SA Police Service in an effort to resolve threats to the organisation, as well as disruptions to its operations along the North Corridor. It said the cause of the derailment will be investigated, and although it was too early to pre-empt the outcome, the derailment had taken place against a backdrop of threats and disruptions to the company’s operations by disgruntled groupings seeking business opportunities.

"These threats are being investigated by law enforcement agencies,“ it said.

Efforts to contact the Ulundi Business Forum are ongoing.

The Minerals Council of South Africa warned last month that the deterioration of Transnet's capacity in rail and ports has cost the mining industry R50 billion in lost opportunities in 2022 alone, while the poor performance of rail, which is well below targets, cost bulk mineral exporters R35bn in lost revenue in 2021.

Spokesperson Alan Seccombe said at the weekend the biggest concern was the impact on export volumes, which outgoing chief executive Roger Baxter last month estimated to be 50 metric tonnes a year ,against Transnet's assertion of at least 60 million metric tonnes.

"The derailment means Transnet is unlikely to reach its targets, which emphasises what the CEO said at the Joburg Indaba even before the derailment and during the strike," Seccombe said.

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