Another incident of overhead cable theft at State-owned Transnet’s Pretoria Complex has further crippled the group’s Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) subsidiary’s ability to deliver goods to customers on time.
It said in a release on Wednesday that the Pretoria Complex, which is one of the country’s biggest rail convergence centres, had been hardest hit.
The complex is operated by both TFR and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, and handles 35-million tons a year of various commodities.
“The continuing theft of overhead cables and railway tracks has reached unprecedented levels and is directly affecting key economic sectors in the country.
“The cable theft impacts on the freight trains servicing critical corridors namely the Cape, Natal and Port Elizabeth corridors transporting automobiles, steel, coal, minerals, fuel, grain and chrome,” Transnet stated.
An average of 21 trains are cancelled every day as a result of cable theft on Transnet’s 30 000 km rail network. The utility operates about 700 trains.
The length of cables stolen from April last year to January this year amounted to 354 227 m, with a direct replacement cost of more than R150-million.
In the same period, 177 trains were cancelled, resulting in a direct volume loss of 1.3-million tons and revenue loss of R400-million.
Transnet has started rolling out diesel locomotives and diverted traffic to the Pyramid Sentrarand complex to transport some of the goods.
However, this route has limited capacity and is, therefore, often congested, which further causes delays of up to seven days for some customers.
“Transnet has joined forces with a number of law enforcement agencies on the ground to curb the theft of cables. Despite security and other interventions, incidents of theft are increasing and are affecting our capabilities to deliver to customers.
“We are working hard to find a solution and make sure that goods reach customers on time,” noted TFR acting CE Lloyd Tobias.