Ramaphosa: We want trucks off the road; we want products on rail network

President Cyril Ramaphosa said they want the problems at the Port of Richards Bay to be resolved by early next year. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa said they want the problems at the Port of Richards Bay to be resolved by early next year. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

Published Nov 23, 2023


President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised that they will resolve the rail network crisis and get trucks off the road to allow the Richard’s Bay port to operate optimally.

He said the problems have been building up over the years, including the lack of maintenance of locomotives and old equipment, which affected the operations at Richards Bay.

There has been massive congestion on the road and at sea, with ships waiting for days to offload goods.

Ramaphosa said they have done the diagnostic analysis, and Transnet will implement the roadmap that will get it out of the quagmire.

Cosatu and its unions have been complaining about how the destruction of the rail network has led to less coal being transported on the rail but on the road.

The trade union federation and the National Union of Mineworkers said this threatened the coal miners, who are facing massive job cuts as fewer tons of coal are transported by rail.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said recently that volumes of goods transported by rail had decreased from 226 million tons to 149 million tons in the last five years.

This has had an impact on the balance sheet of Transnet.

Ramaphosa, who was visiting the Richards Bay port on Thursday, said plans were afoot to fix the port and reduce inefficiencies that have caused huge delays in the export of goods.

Ships are stuck at sea for days before they can offload cargo. Trucks are stuck on the road outside the port for days before they can be processed.

Ramaphosa said they have looked at all the inefficiencies, and Gordhan and Transnet executives were on top of these issues.

“Transnet has a lot of challenges. Challenges that emanate from the past. In a number of instances, ancient machinery or equipment; machinery that has not been maintained. But what I was really pleased about is that they have a plan called a roadmap. A roadmap that is going to help resolve many of the problems and challenges that Transnet is going through.

“Minister Gordhan has been working through all these matters with them, the acting CEO, and various executives. I do believe that in a while we are going to be getting rid of the backlog on the road. The trucks, as long as they are still on the roads, will be coming in. But in the end, we want the trucks off the roads. We want the products to be exported by rail, and we are working towards that plan.

“The plans that we have got for this precinct are of high quality. There is going to be a lot of investments, up to R160 billion. But the other important aspect, of course, is that Transnet has now embraced and accepted working together with the private sector,” said Ramaphosa.

He said they have roped in the private sector to assist in the operations of the port.

The private sector will play a role either through concessions or cooperation, said Ramaphosa.

Transnet will run various operations at the port with the private sector.

Ramaphosa said he wants to see problems resolved early next year.

This is the message he gave to the management of Transnet when he got to the port.

Trucks must be processed quickly, and this will reduce the backlog of goods that need to be exported.

“We must be demonstrating that we are processing trucks as quickly as possible as we move towards ensuring that our rail network works efficiently to bring goods from all over, be they mining products or other products, cars, and all that, to the port and off to other countries,” said Ramaphosa.

They want to ensure that the port is not constrained by inefficiencies.

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