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Longest train is 4 km

History was made on the West Coast as the longest production train with the most wagons (375) in the world was officially launched in Saldanha on Thursday 24 October.

According to Molatwane Likhethe, spokesperson for Transnet, the train runs over a distance of around 861 km from Sishen to Saldanha and is four kilometers long.

The train will only be transporting manganese.

“Running such a train means that rolling stock, as well as some infrastructure, needed to be upgraded to 30 tons per axle on the section between Hotazel and Sishen,” explained Likhethe.

“The wagons were increased from 312 to 375, increasing manganese volume from 19 656 tons to 23 625 tons per train.”

He adds that Transnet’s share of export manganese has rocketed from 5 mt in 2012-’13 to a record-breaking 15,1 mt in 2018-’19.

Russell Baatjies, TFR General Manager for the Iron Ore and Manganese Business Unit, explained that there was an option of increasing manganese’s Rail capacity to respond to customer demand by upgrading the existing railway feeder lines and build new rolling stock.

“That option would have cost us significant capital. The project team was challenged to explore the use of technology through Industry 4.0 solutions, to achieve the same objective at minimum cost. Applying distributed power technology to increase the train length to 375 wagons will reduce capital requirements by over 90% of the initial estimate.”

Likhethe mentions that following the successful execution of the test train last year, Transnet has since operationalised the 4 km train, which is meant to meet the needs of manganese customers within the Hotazel area and emerging miners.

According to Asanda Dlamini, one of the project team members, minimal capital was spent on this project and the concept development for the 375 wagon train started in February 2018.

“Thereafter, the service design, feasibility, testing and Railway Regulator (RSR) approvals were obtained. After the RSR approval, the final operational readiness activities were done from January to March this year. The 375 wagon train service ramped up from the first of April until the end of May. As from the first of June, the 375 wagon train service was fully operational.”

When asked what were some of the challenges they experienced while preparing to launch the train, Dlamini said: “the normal train operating timetable was slightly affected but the Transnet team made provisions to ensure the train was ready for the launch.”

The launch of the train will provide the local and greater economy with an important boost as well.

“The launch of this longer manganese train will result in additional volumes of manganese to flow to Saldanha.

This in turn will boost the South African economy, and it may lead to job opportunities at the mines and offloading sites in Saldanha.”

The train itself will be manned by one driver and an assistant manning the leading locomotives while the other locomotives on the train are controlled through radio distributive power.

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