South African President Jacob Zuma has unveiled a new fleet of rail automotive wagons that are expected to boost freight logistics in the Eastern Cape region.
Speaking at the launch of the new wagons in Uitenhage, outside Port Elizabeth on 5 November 2013, Zuma also announced that Transnet will invest R26 billion in freight infrastructure projects in the Eastern Cape over the next three years.
The launch of the wagons comes after government announced in 2012 that Transnet would spend over R300 billion to expand the country’s infrastructure.
About 180 new wagons are already in service, and Transnet plans to have built 350 wagons by March next year.
The old wagons, which had open sides, exposed transported cars to paint and body damage and were a security risk.
“Although Transnet has been operating a fleet of car carrier wagons for many years, these units have become outdated as industry requirements have changed.
“The dimensions of vehicles have also changed over the years. The old wagons could not accommodate higher profile SUV type vehicles and minibuses. Transnet is therefore moving with the times.
“This development also contributes positively to our campaign to promote the move from road to rail in the transportation of goods in order to protect our road networks and to promote efficiency,” said Zuma.
He said the automotive industry was a key investor in the country’s economy, and that Transnet would invest in infrastructure in the Eastern Cape to support the industry’s work.
“Given the importance of the province to the country’s economic development, this region is central to government’s plans to strengthen the backbone of our country’s fate in transport and logistics infrastructure.
“It is also central to the support we want to continue providing to the manufacturing sector, especially the automotive sector,” he said.
Zuma said the Eastern Cape is a region that has been prioritised for freight infrastructure support after the automotive companies in Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth, a hub for VW car manufacturing, complained about the quality of rail infrastructure to transport vehicles.