Add ‘ghost trains’ to Transnet’s house of horrors

Freight Train

TRANSNET, South Africa’s government-owned rail and ports company said it was investigating allegations of unscheduled trains which were being run by employees and third parties, known as “ghost trains”.

“‘Ghost trains’ are trains not scheduled formally by Transnet with revenue not flowing back to Transnet,” the company said in a statement today.

Transnet said it had referred the allegations for independent investigation as they were not yet supported by evidence. “In the course of the investigation, the whistle-blowers, implicated persons and relevant customers mentioned will be approached for statements,” the company said.

The allegations come nearly three months into joint efforts between Transnet and its mining customers in terms of an undertaking with the Minerals Council to improve the efficiencies of its chrome, coal, manganese and iron ore export routes.

Thungela Resources CEO July Ndlovu disclosed today that coal exports in the first two months of 2023 were running at an annualised rate of 43 million tons, a significiant deterioration on just over 50Mt achieved in coal deliveries to Richards Bay last year – itself a 30-year all-time low.

In March, the ‘tempo’ increased to 52Mt. “This sounds like a big improvement but we are only stabilising the system,” said Ndlovu.

His company’s concern about the sustainability of the improvement is reflected in Thungela’s decision to cut coal production to between 10.5Mt and 12.5Mt for the 12 months ended December 31. This is well below the 14.5Mt it exported in 2021. Thungela reported export sales of just over 13Mt for its 2022 financial year.

In an interview with Miningmx, Ndlovu said the working committees comprising Transnet’s managers and the industry had recorded some improvements in reducing the number of cancelled trains owing to security problems. “We have seen a significant reduction in the last eight weeks,” he said.