By Ntombi Mhlongo
South Africa’s Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) is preparing to materially increase the number of weekly trains operating on that component of its North East Corridor that transports export commodities through Mozambique’s Maputo port.
This will happen once commercial agreements for a so-called ‘borderless’ train service has been finalised with Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) and the plan by TFR is to increase the number of weekly trains carrying chrome from 12 to 21, and those carrying magnetite from 17 to 28.
According to Engineering News, the rail operator is also preparing to increase the number of trains moving rock phosphate and coal through Maputo. It was reported that the two rail operators signed an in-principle agreement in February to enable the uninterrupted passage of freight trains between the two countries, following joint pilots of the run-through model for more than nine months.
“Through this pilot phase, the two rail operator companies clearly demonstrated that the run-through model was a more efficient operating proposition, with great potential to make rail a more competitive option on this channel,” TFR Chief Commercial Officer Bonginkosi Mabaso was quoted saying by Engineering News.
The North East Corridor, which also includes a service to Richards Bay, has involved pre-inspection events at multiple points on the network to Maputo, while crew and traction changes (from electric to diesel and vice versa) have also resulted in significant delays and extended turnaround times.
It was reported that no final date is available for the start of the service “as commercial agreements are under discussion currently”.
The corridor’s performance has also been affected by the limited availability of locomotives, owing to the absence of maintenance contracts with suppliers and a protracted impasse over the supply of spares for locomotives supplied by China.