The employees of Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) had every reason to celebrate this week after successfully launching a 375-wagon manganese train, which measures 4km in length – breaking the record of testing the longest production train in the world.
According to TFR spokesperson Mike Asefovitz, the testing of the train took place over a distance of about 861km – from Sishen in the Northern Cape to Saldanha, the Western Cape.
“This is a production train with the highest number of wagons in the world, followed by the one currently operating within the same Transnet corridor,” said Asefovitz. “This initiative breaks TFR’s own record and a world record of the 342-wagon iron ore production train.”
Once in operation, the longest manganese train is set to be the highest volumes carrier – “an opportunity to increase volumes railed and drive the strategic imperative of moving bulk traffic back to rail”.
It is meant to meet the needs of manganese customers within the Hotazel area in the Northern Cape and the emerging miners.
TFR chief operating officer Lloyd Tobias said: “This is in line with TFR’s business objective of applying heavy haul operating, maintenance, design, construction and best practice principles on general freight operations – in line with TFR’s plan of migrating traffic from road to rail.”
Russell Baatjies, general manager for iron ore and manganese business unit at TFR, said the project team was “challenged to explore the use of technology through industry 4.0 solutions, to achieve the same objective at minimum cost”.
“Applying distributed power technology to increase the train length to 375 wagons will reduce capital requirements by over 90% of the initial estimate,” he said.
TFR general manager Brian Monakali, and chairperson of International Heavy Haul Association, said: “This is another breakthrough for the heavy haul railway industry. Rio Tinto in Australia recently started with implementation of driverless trains in their iron ore railway system.
“The collaboration on technical research and sharing of best practice by heavy haul operations practice by heavy haul operations worldwide will surely keep pushing the operations, safety and rail capacity to new levels through the application of breakthrough technology.”