Move away from rail continues as road payload soars

DURBAN –  The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)ports of Durban and Richards Bay and related road and rail logistics chain shone last year as the payload transported by land increased by 6.5% after surging by 9.3% in 2017, a small 2.2% gain in 2016 and a 2.9% fall in 2015. 

The data shows the continued shift from rail to road as payloads carried by rail had seven year-on-year (y/y) monthly declines in 2018, while on the other hand the payload carried by road had six double-digit y/y monthly increases. 

The result was that the payload transported by road had a near double-digit increase with a 9.9% increase to 756 005 million tons, while the payload transported by rail decreased by 3.8% to 217 401Mt. 

This meant that rail once again lost market share to road . n 2018Last year, rail had a share of only 22.3% after a share of just above a quarter (25.1%) in 2017, while in 2012 its share was 28.6%.

In December 2018, there had also been a derailment on the Mpumalanga-Richards Bay coal line after criminals sabotaged the line near Richards Bay by cutting out a section of rail with a blow torch, and there was a stoppage on the Sishen-Saldanha rail line after a power shovel carried by an abnormal load carrier damaged a bridge. The result of events beyond Transnet’s control was a 17.8% y/y plunge in rail payload carried in December 2018. 
There had been a series of derailments on the Sishen-Salandha line in 2018, but that problem seems to have been sorted out as shown by the January bulk exports data.
Exports out of Saldanha recovered to 8.9Mt in January from only 2.1Mt in December, while exports out of Richards Bay which are mostly coal, eased to 7.6Mt in January from 9Mt in December. 

Transnet will be hoping that 2019 is a better year with a double-digit growth rate similar to that of road transport, so that they can start winning back market share as a shift to rail would ease the burden on sometimes  an overloaded road infrastructure.That has been the department of transport’s strategic plan for several years already, but it has been the lack of execution on Transnet’s part that has not seen this strategic vision implemented. A shift to rail would be a boon for other road users as well as potholes are an increasing scourge on our roads.

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