Pretoria — The first phase in the expansion of the coal line between the Waterberg in Limpopo and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal has been completed. “The project entailed the construction of a 1.8km long passing loop at Matlabas, enabling 100 wagon trains to cross without disrupting the operation of other trains on the line,” Transnet said on Thursday.

The investment has resulted in a significant increase in rail capacity, improved operational efficiencies and faster turnaround times. The project is a key aspect of Transnet’s plans to spend R21.8 billion over the next seven years to increase rail capacity on the export coal line to 81 million tons. The investment is in line with the company’s infrastructure investment programme, the Market Demand Strategy, which is aimed at creating capacity ahead of demand.

Rail capacity between Lephalale in Limpopo and Richards Bay Coal Terminal has increased from 400 000 tons to two million tons of coal per annum since the completion of the project.  “In addition, the loop has enabled Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to increase its services from two trains to five a week, consistently without requiring more wagons. This improvement creates a high potential to run one train a day. Previously, Matlabas loop could only accommodate 50 wagon trains,” Transnet said.