AfriSam will supply base materials and ballast to Transnet Freight Rail for the reinstatement of the 22-km Balfour to Grootvlei railway link by the end of 2013.

This railway line will be used to transport coal from coalfields in Mpumalanga and the Free State to Eskom’s Grootvlei power station near Balfour in Mpumalanga.

The base materials order comprises about 120 000 t of G5 base material and 55 000 m³ of heavy line ballast, as well as approximately 1 500 m³ of ready-mix concrete. These products are being supplied out of AfriSam’s Rooikraal and Sub Nigel operations, located on the East Rand. The order includes material for the upgrading of two concrete bridges and a number of culverts.

AfriSam’s George Hesse, key account consultant responsible for Transnet, says at present all the coal required by the power station is being transported by road haulage. The recommissioning of this section of railway line will not only save Eskom expenditure on road haulage costs, but will also reduce the cost of externalities such as damage to public roads, traffic congestion and vehicle exhaust pollution in the area. Most importantly, the loss of lives and injury of people in the communities due to accidents will be mitigated.

“Although the order was placed with us in January 2013, we’ve been part of the Transnet Freight Rail team for this project since 2012,” Hesse says. “We’ve since become embedded in this project team, attending weekly planning and progress meetings, and this close cooperation has generated a supply partnership that has resulted in the order being executed within the required time frames.”

Activities on the Balfour to Grootvlei railway line reduced significantly when Eskom mothballed the Grootvlei power station in 1990, but when South Africa experienced a power crisis in the late 2000s, the power station was returned to service.

“Unfortunately, in the years following the 1990 mothballing of the power station, the railway link line used to bring in coal fell into disuse and later most of the 22 km line was actually stolen, including the line, sleepers and switchgear,” Hesse explains. “The reinstatement project includes the line being upgraded to higher axle loading specification in line with the Transnet Freight Rail network standards, which will eventually allow heavier trains to supply the required coal.”

AfriSam is also supplying other Transnet Freight Rail upgrade undertakings, including sections of the main Johannesburg to KwaZulu-Natal line from Heidelberg to Durban, sections from Ladysmith to Newcastle and portions of the Mpumulanga to Richards Bay coal line.