Since South Africa’s independence in 1994, rail is proving to be a reliable alternative to road transportation, as Spoornet moves further and further into Africa. Spoornet plan to have regular rail movements to the Democratic Republic of Congo, giving South African exporters increased rail options to more African destinations. Not only is rail freight an alternative solution for trade into Africa, but it is also an alternative for moving freight from inland cities (such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Kimberly, etc.) to the ports. Rail freight does not have quite the reach that road freight does, as not every town is reliably served by rail transportation. What is more, road freight can provide a ‘last mile’ solution that rail freight cannot (i.e. a truck will probably still be used to get the cargo from the railway station to and from the factory or customer’s premises.

Cargo dispatched by rail can be consolidated into a rail wagon or packed into individual containers. Transnet offer 3 and 9 metre containers. These containers are unique to rail and road transportation and are not offered for sea freight.Nevertheless, standard sea freight containers can also be moved by rail. Transnet divides the container freight market into three categories, namely:

  • Import traffic: the management of containers that enter through a South African port with a domestic or over border destination.
  • Export traffic: the management of containers leaving South Africa through our ports and
  • Domestic traffic: the management of containers transported within and over South Africa’s borders.

Transnet services

Transnet offers terminal services in addition to rail services. The following terminal services are offered:

  • Physical and administrative checks.
  • Acceptance/delivery of the container in the interchange zone at the terminal.
  • Loading/unloading of the container at the terminal interchange zone from/to a hauler or when lifted from/placed on a rail wagon at the railhead.
  • Conveyance between the interchange zone or railhead and the stack.
  • Stacking/de-stacking.
  • Handling by means of container crane and/or gantry crane as the case may be.
  • Transhipment of containers emanating from and destined for foreign countries.
  • Storage.

Transnet also has six major inland terminals and nineteen satellite depots that are strategically located to link with the ports in South Africa. Each terminal, with its satellites depots handle containers, cars and bulk traffic and are located as follows:

  • City Deep (Eastcon, Kazcon),
  • Belcon (Saldanha, Ashton, Dalcon),
  • Deal Party (East London, George),
  • Pretcon (Phalaborwa, Witbank, Pietersburg, Nelspruit, Piet Retief),
  • Bayhead (Newcastle) and
  • Bloemfontein (Kimberly, Maseru, De Aar, Kroonstad, Kakamas, Bethlehem).

Rail freight rates

Spoornet operates commodity-based freight rates, which identifies goods into different categories. Manufactured or semi-manufactured goods, such as motor vehicles, these are classified according to a higher tariff, while minerals and agricultural products such as maize are classified according to a lower tariff grouping.

poornet also offers, contract rates, based on truckloads, or trainload rates, these rates are extremely negotiable. Goods delivered by rail move from one station to another on the presentation of a FTO – Freight Transit Order.