Cable theft has critically constrained the delivery of coal by rail to the Majuba power station, as the portion of the rail network owned by State-owned power utility Eskom that feeds directly into Majuba has been severely damaged by the theft of overhead cables and critical overhead track equipment, reports State-owned Transnet Freight Rail (TFR).
Eskom has been unable to restore the overhead track equipment, TFR says.
TFR’s electrically powered mainline locomotives are unable to deliver trains directly to the Majuba power station. TFR is, therefore, forced to change to diesel locomotives, which are already limited, for the last leg of the trip, which leads to train delays and operational difficulties owing to damaged overheads.
A new spike in cable theft incidents on the container corridor and in the Delmas and Ogies area, in Mpumalanga, has made it impossible for TFR to achieve the movement of even three trains a day.
"As part of contractual arrangements between TFR and Eskom, TFR delivers coal trains to the Majuba power station at a maximum of three trains a day in line with the current capacity of the Eskom-owned section of the line. TFR could previously run six trains a day.
“As a result of rampant cable theft and vandalism, the system is now constrained to three trains a day," the freight rail agency points out.
Additionally, on July 5, two guards were attacked during a cable theft incident in the Sentrarand area. One guard was killed and another critically injured.
"This highlights the gravity of what TFR contends with daily. In this particular incident, 804 m of cable was stolen.
Sentrarand forms part of the central corridor, which serves as a crucial junction feeding into all corridors, and incidents in this region have devastating ripple effects across the network, TFR stresses.
"TFR would like to take this opportunity to send its sincere condolences to the family of the guard that lost his life. One life lost in the fight against cable theft is one life too many," it says.
"TFR wishes a speedy recovery to the critically injured guard.
“We continue to call for heavier regulation of scrap metal dealers and increased law enforcement to protect economically essential infrastructure,” it says.
TFR also appeals to the general public to assist in the fight against cable theft by contacting the Crime-Stop hotline on 08600 10111 to report any suspicious activities near and around the rail network.