According to Bronwyn Gerretsen, writing in the Mercury, there are concerns among major users about services provided by Transnet Freight Rail. “Jannie de Villiers, executive director at the Chamber of Milling, said that the chamber’s members were forced to pay 20 to 30% more to transport produce by road. ‘We may ask for two wagons and only get one. Then there may be no driver or no locomotive. And if the load is transported… only half arrives at its destination because the wagon door… is damaged.’
“These problems also contributed to rising food costs, said De Villiers. In the 1980s, 85% of all grain was transported by rail. At the moment, this figure stood at 26%. De Villiers said he feared South Africa would not be able to import produce in the event of severe drought because of the inadequate rail service.
“A rail operations official at a prominent logistics company said it was only getting about 50 to 60% of its ideal number of loads transported due to problems with Transnet’s capacity. ‘It is definitely a major concern… It is operating with old rail stock (locomotives and wagons) at a number of our terminals and Transnet does not have the funds to invest in them.’ He called for a public-private partnership or ‘wagon investment’ to address problems.
“A representative of a cement manufacturer said the industry spent about R4 billion a year on rail transport, meaning that Transnet’s problems impacted heavily on their businesses. The motor industry was also relying more on road transport than rail, owing to both cheaper cost and better service. A representative of a company which transports vehicles by rail said Transnet ‘have a major problem at the moment – there are derailments all the time, and there is very little maintenance on both the lines and the trains.’”