Transnet pursuing R3bn Africa rail pipeline as it delivers coaches to Botswana Rail
The engineering unit of South Africa’s State-owned logistics utility Transnet is actively pursuing R3-billion-worth of possible rolling-stock contracts across Africa, notwithstanding a weakened rail investment climate precipitated by a decline in commodity prices.
Speaking at the official launch of the reinstatement of a Botswana passenger rail service, which will use 37 coaches designed and manufactured in South Africa, Transnet Engineering CEO Thamsanqa Jiyane said the group was hoping to take advantage of the weaker rand to market its rolling stock across the continent.
He said Transnet Engineering was intent on becoming a railways original equipment manufacturer and would, in June, launch its own Trans-Africa locomotive, over which it would command full intellectual-property rights.
He stressed that the unit still had a solid order book, with Transnet Freight Rail comprising around 80% of that backlog.
Transnet Engineering had a yearly turnover of around R11-billion. “Our order book performance is affected by the commodity slump . . . but the rand is working in our favour,” Jiyane explained.
Transnet Engineering was awarded the R250-million Botswana Rail contract in July last year and the final design was signed off in late October.
The coaches were engineered and manufactured at Transnet Engineering’s Koedoespoort and Salt River facilities, with the first 22 units showcased during the official launch in Lobatse on Tuesday, presided over by Botswana President Ian Khama.
“This is a huge milestone towards our goal extending our business beyond the borders of South Africa, thereby positioning us as a leading provider of logistics services in sub-Saharan Africa,” Jiyane said.
President Khama said the new coaches would allow Botswana Rail to reinstate an overnight rail service from Lobatse to Francistown, some 430 km to the north-east.
Khama linked the investment, officially named the BR Express, directly to the country’s upcoming 50th anniversary since independence, which would be celebrated on September 30.