MAILBOX: ‘NIP 2050 is totally flawed, extremely arrogant, written to benefit Transnet only’ – Francois Nortje

On Tuesday 10 August 2021, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) gazetted the draft National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050) for public comment. The NIP 2050 was prepared by Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) over a period of six months working closely with sector specialists and other stakeholders. The NIP 2050, which invited written responses to be submitted and addressed to the Chief Director by today, seeks to ‘identify the most critical actions needed for sustained improvement in public infrastructure delivery that will have impact in the short term but with the longer-term outcomes in view.’ Francois Nortje, director of Distribution Junxion at Port of Gauteng, sent BizNews his written response, in which he states that; ‘This plan is totally flawed, extremely arrogant, written to benefit Transnet only, removed from reality, and does not mention the 2 revolutionary changes that are currently taking place in Freight transport globally.’ – Nadya Swart

National development plan comments

15 September 2021

Chief Director infrastructure,

Herewith are my comments and input regarding the National Infrastructure plan 2050 that was gazetted on 10 August asking for comments and input.

The only section I am commenting on is the Freight Transport plan.

This plan is totally flawed, extremely arrogant, written to benefit Transnet only, removed from reality, and does not mention the 2 revolutionary changes that are currently taking place in Freight transport globally.

The gas revolution in the Freight-industry has been ongoing for 10 years now. With gas becoming much more available and cheaper over the last 10 years, more and more trucks are now using cheap gas instead of Diesel.

This had at least consequences, oil thus diesel got cheaper, it is now much more difficult for rail to compete with trucks anywhere in the world, please see my email below where I commented on a similar document last year.

South- Africa will only enter the Gas truck fase shortly.

PBS trucks are something very new and revolutionary, South Africa is one of the world pioneers.

Coke, Unitrans Supergroup and Barlow logistics are some of the corporations in South Africa that support this revolution in Truck Freight. Over 200 million test km have been driven by the research group in SA

These 2 revolutions in Truck Freight transport will kill most rail operations worldwide.

Thus this plan is totally flawed and worthless.

Please also note that the trucking industry employs 10 000s people, and thus empowers them, and not government officials and SOE senior management.

No detail is given to substantiate how the state institution will become capable of driving Freight transport reform.

Do the writers of this document really think the state will be able to plan freight movement better than private companies whose survival and profit depend on their freight route planning and execution?

Transnet for extremely good reason has a near nil market share of palletised freight, please see the document below.

Why o why will it change?

Francois Nortje, DIRECTOR


The contribution of SOEs to Vision 2030- Transnet

30 June 2020

Mr Ashraf Kariem

The NPC position paper: The contribution of SOEs to vision 2030 and the request to comment and give feedback before 30 June 2020.

The parts dealing with Transnet, especially pr. 3.4.6 in the position paper will be commented on and solutions suggested.

3.4.6. Transnet does not sufficiently promote effective intermodal linkages to support an integrated logistics network. Intermodal linkages that allow for efficient trans-shipments between modes is prohibitively expensive at 130% above the benchmark target. According to the NDP, one of the core mandates of SOEs are to promote effective intermodal linkages to maximize freight hauling and distribution efficiency (NDP, 2012). The NDP aspires to an intermodal market share of 43%, whereas the current market share is 24%. The Transnet stated target, however, is even lower than the NDP’s stated target, sitting at 15% of the market share. The poor performance in intermodal connectivity is evident in just over 50% of target intermodal market share. Palletised goods, which are easily transhipped between modes and predisposed to intermodal hauling, only have 0,1% market share captured by Transnet.  

There are numerous reasons for the inadequate intermodal linkages that prevent efficient trans-shipment between modes at competitive pricing. Fortunately, the points suggested below provide solutions to some of the existing inefficiencies:

  • The Transnet facilities for trans-shipment between modes are old fashioned and in the wrong position (Kaserne and City Deep). They were also build when rail dominated and road had to fit in with rails geographic position. Now that the position is reversed and road dominates extensively in moving consumer goods, rail needs to fit in with road’s geographic position if it wants a small chance to gain a bigger share of this market, dominated increasingly by road.
  • Very little modernisation of the layout has taken place at Transnet terminals since 1975 when City Deep and Kaserne were built.
  • The World Bank study indicated that it takes up to 4 days to turn a train around at City Deep.
  • There are very good reasons pointing to Transnet only having 0.1 market share of palletised goods. It is extremely difficult to exercise proper theft control on palletised goods by rail and it needs to be transhipped twice.
  • Trans-shipment (especially palletised goods) adds immense cost onto the transport cost, due to the need for extensive  control, security, admin and handling. This is also incurred twice for palletised goods.
  • A train takes an extremely large quantity of palletised goods at once – this requires multiple dispatchers and receivers. This adds another layer of time delays, control, admin and security cost, if it would be possible to control and stop large scale theft. On route the train regularly waits for signal approval, theft is so easy and large scale at these points. Transnet Pipelines now know the extent of criminal capability, with 24 Security breaches having occurred on their Pipeline in 3 months.
  • Durban in rail terms is very close to Gauteng and it is therefore very difficult for rail to compete with road, due to layers of cost and time delays that even one transhipment requires.
  • The rail leg needs to be 2000 km or longer to enable rail to save enough on transport cost compared to a truck to make up for the massive transhipment delays and cost. Durban is 550 km from Gauteng, Los Angeles is 4000 km from New York. That’s why rail on some segments in USA works.
  • Transnet rail has a narrow gage system that cannot handle heavy loads coupled with tight angels and high speed. The Drakensberg sits between Durban and Gauteng. Therefore trains need to be carefully packed with containers to prevent derailment due to a slightly heavy loaded train. This adds another layer of cost and time.
  • Transnet uses  Eskom power to move its trains.  Eskom power prices have increased 10 fold in the past years. This is set to continue to increase above inflation for years to come.
  • This energy comes from environmentally unfriendly coal powered power stations.
  • Road Transport in SA is on the brink of entering the era of massive saving, due to switching to  “natural gas trucks” away from diesel. This will also drastically reduce the greenhouse gasses emitted by trucks.
  • In the near future we will have extra length trucks on certain Cargo routes that can transport 2 x 12m containers. Currently the longest trucks carrying containers in SA can transport 1x 12m and 1x 6m containers. Very few 6m containers enter or leave SA, therefore the majority of container trucks currently only transport one 12 m container at a time. When the extra length abnormal trucks are regularised on SA roads, transport will be even more efficient. These trucks will most likely be allowed on the N3 from Durban to Gauteng and the N1 from Cape Town to Gauteng, however not past a certain point into the congested part of Gauteng. Please see academic paper attached.
  • A future train terminal in Gauteng that will be able to deliver intermodal trans-shipments economically needs to be at the southern entry point of Gauteng, as 95% of consumer goods entering Gauteng come from the South.
  • This will alleviate double travel of goods past the entry point into Gauteng and then back again to the southern part of Gauteng, where the majority of Gauteng citizens live.
  • Gautengs’ urban area is 80 km wide along the reef from Randfontein to Hillbrow to Springs, thus the economic centre of Gauteng is near Rosebank in the southern part of Gauteng.
  • Future intermodal trans-shipment terminals need to be super efficient and must link in with SA’s major cargo road, the N3, to lower the cost and time of trans-shipments, or road will continue to grow its market share of moving consumer goods.

Francois Nortje, DIRECTOR

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