TFR announces plans to up tempo of coal deliveries

An employee climbs steps in the rail yard where coal arrives for shipping at the Richard's Bay coal terminal, in Richard's Bay, South Africa.

TRANSNET Freight Rail, a division of Transnet, said on Thursday it was ramping up coal trains along its North Corridor in order to ease port congestion which has crippled operations at Richards Bay port.

The improved service will see seven trains per week for its coal service by mid-December bringing the the total number of trains to 28 per week.

“This equates to volume of about 15,400 tons per week, and an annualised tempo of 739,200 tons per annum, which is equivalent to 452 road truck trips per week, and 21,747 road truck trips per annum,” it said.

The first four locomotives will be deployed over the next few days. Between December 2023 and March 2024, TFR will bring in an additional seven trains, resulting in 35 trains per week to the port. This will support efforts underway to decongest the port, it said.

The increase in trains was possible following repairs to the locomotive fleet, the company said. There had also been improvements in cable theft incidents which enabled TFR to turn trains around faster, it added.

“As part of efforts to improve the condition of the network and increase slot capacity, TFR is reinstalling some signalling equipment, with most expected to be functional by February 2024,” it said.

Commenting in a trading update ahead of its financial year close on December 31, Exxaro Resources said on November 29 there had been no marked improvement in coal deliveries. Industry-wide, full year coal deliveries by TFR were expected to total 47.44 million tons (Mt) for this year. This was based on deliveries to end-October of 39.43Mt.

“Even though the coal export industry has supported TFR where opportunities arose, no improvement in tonnage railed has been experienced,” said Riaan Koppeschaar, Exxaro’s finance director.