In February this year, Transnet SOC Ltd and Botswana Railways resuscitated discussions on the construction of the heavy haul railway line that links the two countries via Lephalale in Limpopo.
Discussions around the project date back over ten years following a concept study that suggested that the most viable option to unlock the coal reserves from Botswana would be through the construction of the railway link.
A number of Transnet railway expansion programs, which will feed into the construction of the Botswana rail network are at an execution stage while others are at advanced planning stages, including the upgrade of the existing railway line from Lephalale in Limpopo to Pyramid South in Pretoria. This particular program, which is in the construction phase, is a step towards unlocking both Waterberg and Botswana coal. The Botswana coal reserves are estimated at 212 billion tonnes.
Other projects in support of this program include the upgrade of the electrical infrastructure on the coal-heavy haul system and the construction of the second tunnel at Overvaal in Mpumalanga among others. The MOU between the two countries will cement collaboration that will see up to 80 million tonnes of coal per annum from Botswana railed for export and domestic use. Once the MOU is signed by both governments a joint steering committee and a project team will be established to kick-start the project.
“The railway link from Botswana to South Africa is one of the strategic initiatives that will transform the economy of the SADC region. We welcome the partnership with Transnet in making this a reality,” Botswana Railways Board Chairman, Adolph Hirschfeld, said.
The link will also open the freight logistics channels through South Africa for exports via Maputo in Mozambique and the Richards Bay ports. Speaking on behalf of Transnet, Dr Popo Molefe said that Transnet is ready to collaborate with Botswana Railways to make this project a success.
“We will ensure that the South African railway system is capacitated to support both the unlocking of Waterberg and Botswana coal reserves.”
In October 2018, Railways Africa interviewed the CEO of Botswana Railways where he presented this project as well as a few others that are due to go into the construction phase this year.