Sep 22, 2015 report…
South Africa now has a government transport policy to plan out a widening of the country’s existing railway tracks to international standard gauge. The geographic scope covers as much as 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) of track just in South Africa.
This scope would take decades to physically complete. It might cost as much as 1.5 trillion rand ($110 billion),
Cape Gauge existing track width between the inner sides of two rails is 1067mm as a design. Standard gauge design width is 1435mm.
South Africa Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced the policy to reporters on Tuesday. The gauge conversion would bring the network in line with about 60 percent of other countries, boost capacity and reduce transportation costs, she said.
In response, Transnet Acting Chief Executive Officer Siyabonga Gama said that while the company supports a move to standard gauge, the policy “needs further investigation” to determine its viability. “We did an assessment and we found out that if we had to create 15,000 kilometers of track, we would need up to 1.5 trillion rand,” he said in an interview after the announcement. “It would be a very expensive exercise.”
The assumption is so far that almost all tracks would be converted to 1435mm. Economically, it is more likely that only the strategic high traffic volume density routes and some feeder lines would financially justify the expense of conversion. .
The economic benefits come from more stable train operating wagon movements and possible high clearance doublestack container train economics. Containers stack two high on rail cars cut the expense by as much as 35% to 45%. Stack container trains have been operating successfully in the United States for 30 years. Two decades!
Stack trains cannot physically be operated on Cape Gauge or Meter gauge tracks.
Regardless of the eventual network size, the project could take decades to fully complete. A place to start might logically be between one of South Africa’s premier container sea ports and the Johannesburg regional market.
Meanwhile, much of Africa’s rail planning is already focused on standard gauge 1435mm track for all new railway projects. Ethiopia and Kenya just as two eastern African examples.
Minister Dipuo Peters strategic announcement is simply acknowledging a prudent rail modernization approach for South Africa.
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