The inter-railway initiative between Transnet Freight Rail and Swaziland Railway which entails the construction of a 150km line from Lothair to Sidvokodvo is progressing well and has achieved significant milestones. The new line will be 50km long in South Africa and 100km in Swaziland and will also require the revamping of adjacent existing lines to align and provide support to the new link.
“Early works are currently underway, and this involves graves relocation, acquisition of servitudes and the resettlement planning. The feasibility study report received a green light to proceed to the next phase” said Transnet Rail Freight Chief Executive Officer Ravi Nair. The line has been designed to carry trains with 150 General freight Business wagons and will be operated as a seamless service without stopping at the border “The project’s primary objective is to reduce rail and road traffic congestion based on a realistic and achievable system capacity. The target is to accommodate up to 26 tons/axle, 2.5km long/ 200 wagon trains and provide the capacity for 12 trains each way per day, in line with infrastructure interventions. This will result in a dedicated general Freight Business Corridor for Transnet, while providing necessary additional capacity for Swaziland Railway” said Nair.
The project has already created opportunities on both sides of the boarder. “Approximately 3000 and 6500 jobs will be created in South Africa and Swaziland respectively during construction of the SRL railway line…. Many more indirect job opportunities will be formed by the project” said Nair
The detailed planning phase is underway and comprises of; land acquisition, graves relocation, resettlement planning activities and completion of the engineering designs.
Swaziland Railway Chief Executive Stephenson Ngubane said the joint project is going to bring a lot of benefits to Swaziland and South Africa.
“For many years we did not have a direct link and yet Swaziland trades…in Mpumalanga and Gauteng, most of the flow of trade in import and export come from [those provinces].
“With this project the cost of transport will be reduced for as it is more direct through Swaziland and more direct to the Ports of Richards Bay also including Mozambique at a later stage,” Ngubane said.
Swaziland has been able to relocate about 500 graves and reburied. A total of 235 households will be resettled in Swaziland.
“This project is gaining momentum and we believe that as we prepare the presentation for funding it will be supported. We believe that the standard of the rail that we are going to be constructing is going to bring a lot of efficiency and capacity,” Ngubane said
The project has been packaged as public-private partnership and the process of finding suitable partners is underway.
Recent developments Swaziland side include:
· The highlights of the feasibility report shows that 500 graves will be relocated and 235 households will be resettled in Swaziland. To date all 500 graves have been relocated.
· Acquisition of land
· A structure at grass roots level comprising of project affected people is in place to address all resettlement issues. A participatory process to relocate graves in Swaziland has been concluded.
· A robust consultative process with traditional authorities and other stakeholders like the Manzini regional Administrator, chiefs and government ministries is ongoing.
· Complete adherence to regulatory and statutory requirements lies at the core of the entire project
· The government of the kingdom of Swaziland is in full support of the project as evidenced by its mention in the 2017/18 Government of Swaziland budget speech
Progress on the South Africa side:
· The socio Economic Assessment in the Mpumalanga area to determine the level of skills available, types of small businesses available to boost local employment and business opportunities.
· The purchasing of 506 hectares has been approved and negotiations with the land owners are being finalized in order to purchase the impacted land
· Approval for exhumation and relocation of over120 affected graves has also been obtained. The affected families have been identified and engaged in this process.
· The plans to resettle the affected households are also in progress.
· The feasibility studies of the greenfield are complete and the authorities in South Africa and Swaziland have granted both teams the necessary environment permits.
· Feasibility studies of the existing lines that need to be upgraded, that is, Ermelo to Lothair as well as Golela to Nsese are also in progress.
· Engagements are being conducted on a continuous basis with the existing customers and potential customers to ensure maximum viability and sustainability.