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Transnet Freight Rail improves coal line



VRYHEID ( - State-owned Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) last week moved 1,4-million tons of coal for export through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) on its coal line.This was improvement from the prior weekly average of about 1,3-million tons. "If we can remain at 1,4-million tons a week until the end of the financial year, we will reach financial close in excess of 65-million tons for the year," said TFR coal export line manager Bertie Maree.The efficiency, explained Maree, was owing to quicker turnaround times and fewer incidents on the coal line, as well as higher availability of coal from mines at better turnaround times at RBCT.The coal line has a capacity to transport 72-million tons a year although the actual tonnages transported through the export channel were less. This was owing to high rainfall in the beginning of the year, which meant that miners could not supply coal, as well as handling and infrastructure-related derailments along the coal line.Disruptions because of the RBCT expansion were also a factor.TFR was implementing its turnaround strategy, which would see the rail company spending some R12-billion on capital expenditure (capex), of which it was estimated about R7,2-billion had already been spent.Over 100 000 new wagons would be built under the new capex programme to accommodate increased tonnages. Transnet Rail Engineering had already started building the first 300 wagons, which would go into service in March 2009.New locomotives would also be procured, signalling systems would be improved and formation (the ground beneath the tracks like a foundation) would be reinforced.With the RBCT having outlined plans to expand capacity to export 91-million tons a year of coal, this meant TFR would need to boost its capacity to transport the required amount of coal from the mines inland.The ten-year contract between TFR (formerly called Spoornet) and the coal mining industry players came to an end in 2004/5, and a new fixed contract was still in the process of being negotiated. In the interim, a fixed tariff was applied. A number of elements of the contract pricing were under discussion, some of the fixed elements worked into the pricing structure would be the distance to the RBCT and time taken to load wagons. This meant that if a coal-miner invested in efficient loading facilities and could load wagons quicker, a lower tariff would be paid.The average time to load a 100-wagon train was about 4,6 hours, including front-end loading, and slow-speed loading. With efficient loading facilities, such as the slow-speed mechanism found BHP Billiton's Douglas colliery in Mpumalanga, a 100-wagon train could be loaded in 2,3 hours. There are 28 200 wagon set trains in operation on the coal line at any given day. These trains are 2,4 km long, and carry some 16 800 t of coal. The seven major shareholders now making use of the coal line are, Anglo Coal, BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Sasol Mining, Total Coal, Exxaro and Kangra Coal.About four-million tons a year was transported on the line for black economic-empowerment miners, which export coal through a RBCT stake held by the Department of Minerals and Energy.

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Transnet Freight Rail improves coal line

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