Agriculture and the Railway

14:02 in Magazine - article by stationmaster

Grain train at Houwhoek, 100km east of Cape Town, behind four class 35 diesels. “The strongest remaining rail businesses in the agricultural sector are grain in the Western Cape’s Overberg region and also timber in KwaZulu Natal.” – Andrew Marsay. Photo: Peter Rogers.

Transport economics specialist Andrew Marsay, quoted by I-Net Bridge, says the background to the use of rail in SA agriculture goes back to the 1913 South African Railways & Harbours Act (SAR&H). It set out a twofold mandate for the railway: to operate profitably, and to open up the country for mining, agriculture and manufacturing. “SAR&H set about the task with vigour,” Marsay says, “and much of the rail network as we know it today – other than the main intercity routes – was built during the next 10 years. The company succeeded in both elements of its mandate, though sometimes going to government for additional funding if it felt that a good economic case existed for opening up a new area, even though revenues could not fund the required investment.”

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