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The feasibility study report for the multimillion-rand Swaziland Railway project, which will link Lothair in Mpumalanga to Sidvokodvo in Swaziland, has been completed, providing the go-ahead for the building of the line. The project, which was initiated in 2012, will result in a dedicated general freight business corridor between South Africa and Swaziland.

Swazi SA rail project gaining momentumThe two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding five years ago to develop the rail line. The completed line will be 50km long in South Africa and 100km in Swaziland and will require the upgrading of adjacent existing lines to align and provide support to the new link. The project has an estimated value of R894-million in South Africa and R1.7-billion in Swaziland.

In a statement issued by Transnet, the company said the new line will reduce rail- and road-traffic congestion “based on a realistic and achievable system capacity”, and would serve as a back-up to the coal line. When completed, the new line will accommodate up to 26 tons/axle, 2.5km long/200 wagons trains and provide capacity for 12 trains per day.

Preparation work for the project will involve land acquisition, relocation of graves, acquisition of servitudes, resettlement planning, and completion of engineering designs, Transnet said, adding that the project will create thousands of jobs. It is estimated that 3 000 jobs in South Africa and 6 500 jobs in Swaziland will be created.

The feasibility studies of the greenfield site are complete and authorities in South Africa and Swaziland have granted both teams with the necessary environmental permits. Additionally, authorities in South Africa and Swaziland have granted water use licenses, while the feasibility studies of the existing lines that need to be upgraded are in progress.

The initial estimates from the study indicate that about R20 billion will be needed for the project. The bulk of the funds will go towards infrastructure and construction.

“For many years we did not have a direct link and yet Swaziland trades in Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Most of the flow of trade in import and export come from those provinces. With this project, the cost of transport will be reduced as it is more direct through Swaziland and more direct to the Port of Richards Bay, and will also include Mozambique at a later stage,” Swaziland Railway Chief Executive Stephenson Ngubane said at a media briefing.

“This project is gaining momentum and we believe that as we prepare the presentation for funding it will be supported. We believe that the standard of the rail that we are going to be constructing is going to bring a lot of efficiency and capacity.”

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