Questions after coal trains collide, derail


Transnet Rail Freight (TFR) has been requested to transparently and carefully investigate the incident, during which two of its trains collided on the export coal line to Richards Bay.

Mimmy Gondwe, the DA’s shadow minister for public enterprises, says it is essential that TFR make the full accident report public.

RNews earlier reported that clean-up and repair work was underway after the two Transnet trains were involved in a collision early Sunday morning at Elubana near Richards Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. Both trains were carrying coal and derailed during the incident. No serious injuries were reported. According to local media reports, the accident may have been the result of a power failure after one of the trains stopped.

“TFR must also regularly provide information on the progress to clean up the accident scene, with a clear time frame when operations can fully resume on the relevant export line. Any protracted delays will be detrimental to the operations of major exporters who rely on the railway in question to transport their commodities to the port.”

Gondwe says the accident could have easily been avoided if TFR had not dragged its feet in terms of digitizing the system that handles tracking and scheduling of its freight rail line.

“The impact of this latest accident now requires the TFR to provide detailed reasons for the delay in implementing a digitized system. A tender has already been issued in 2022 for such a system.”

Gondwe says it is beyond comprehension how the TFR still manages the system manually to schedule and track freight rail transport. “It is a vague system that relies on signal equipment and telephone communication and leaves great room for human error. Transnet has been a huge burden on the economy for some time, from dysfunctional ports to a collapsing rail network. South Africa’s unconscious economy cannot handle any further logistical shocks or crises. This is why the DA requests that the relevant part of the railway be urgently cleaned up and that operations can resume as quickly as possible.”