Coal railway line expected to ease road damage

Sunday, September 29, 2013

By Dale Hes

Mbombela - The problem of coal trucks damaging Mpumalanga’s roads may soon come to an end following Eskom's announcement that the R5.2 billion Majuba railway line near Ermelo will start operating in the next two years.

The 68km railway, operated by Transnet, will connect the province's coal mines to Eskom’s Majuba power station.

"Civil construction and earthworks for the development will be completed by the end of October this year. The line will be able to carry the first coal-loaded train on 31 May 2016,” said Eskom spokesperson Andrew Etzinger.

Etzinger said the project is expected to yield lower lifecycle transportation costs, improve coal-delivery turnaround times and enable Majuba to access more coal sources than is currently the case.

Mpumalanga residents have been up in arms over the high number of coal trucks which damage town roads.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza earlier this year assured that the new railway would alleviate this problem. During his 2013 State of the Province Address, Mabuza said there would be numerous social and economic benefits associated with the project. “Safety on roads will be enhanced by movement of commodities on rail. Larger commodities will be delivered translating into positive impacts on economies of scale, while the running costs for doing business will be reduced due to better conditions on roads,” Mabuza had said.

The mining town of Ermelo has been the most heavily affected with three national roads, the N11, N2 and N17 passing through the town.

Mayor of the Msukaligwa Local Municipality Sipho Bongwe explained that partnerships with Eskom and local mining companies were key in order to maintain Ermelo’s roads.

“Coal haulage has adversely affected our roads infrastructure in one way or another. We hope that the partnerships we have started will be sustained and further cemented in years to come,” Bongwe said.

The Majuba railway has been designed to transport 14 million tons of coal yearly from the Goedgevonden, Vlakvarkfontein, Exxaro, Middelkraal, Kuyasa and Shanduka mines.

The project received a R3 billion loan from the World Bank, with the balance being financed by Eskom.

Mabuza said roads that are in a good condition promote tourism in the province and longer life cycles would reduce the cost of maintenance.

“The savings from this will be redirected to other priorities. Jobs will be created during the construction process and local people will benefit. It is expected that other economic spin-offs will emerge as result of the rail construction,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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