Freight and ports parastatal Transnet has officially put its world record-breaking 375-wagon train into operation on its manganese line between Sishen and Saldanha Bay – and it’s manned by a 33-year-old woman from the West Coast fishing village of Paternoster.
Elizia Clark was in the driver’s seat of the “monster train” when it rolled into the Western Cape port on Thursday from the manganese mines in the Northern Cape some 861km away.
Clark added more buzz to Transnet’s big launch of the longer train, which has 63 additional wagons to the previous manganese train on the line and takes its length to around 4km. This makes it the train with the greatest number of wagons and the longest “production train” in the world, a record previously also held by the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) division.
TFR held the previous world record with its 342-wagon iron-ore production train on the same route.
The shy Clark was a woman of few words at a track-side ceremony after the arrival of the train at the Port of Saldanha Bay. She simply said it was an “amazing experience” to be steering the ground-breaking train. Clark, who has been working for TFR for around six years, has a passion for her job and for trains according to her colleagues.
Transnet group acting COO Richard Vallihu said it was a historic moment for both the group and its TFR division, adding that the “monster train” would see increased manganese export capacity on the rail line between Sishen and Saldanha Bay.
He tells Moneyweb that the “efficiency innovation” on the route, by opting for a longer train instead of investing billions of rand into additional infrastructure, will result in a million more tons of manganese being transported annually. Currently around four million tons of manganese is hauled on the Sishen-Saldanha Bay rail line each year.
“We have been trialling a longer train on the line since October last year and had to secure approval from the SA Rail Safety Regulator,” said Vallihu. “Transnet is proud to now officially launch this, with the 375-wagon train being the most advanced and efficient of its kind in the world.”
He explained that manganese was a premium export and one of the most profitable bulk freight products for Transnet.
“In fact, the additional capacity created by putting a longer train on the route will add some R375 million to Transnet’s revenue base.
“Furthermore, it adds not only to greater efficiency by lowering costs, but also a lower carbon footprint.”
According to Transnet, TFR’s share of export manganese has been growing exponentially – from five million tons in its 2012/13 financial year to a record-breaking 15.1 million tons in 2018/19.
South Africa currently exports manganese out of the ports of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape, Durban in KwaZulu-Natal and Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape.
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