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[LISTEN] Government Mulls Shift from Road to Railway for Freight in Wake of Truck Accidents

2 min read

28 September 2022

12:45 CAT

Umm Muhammed Umar

Radio Islam spoke to the Road Freight Association’ CEO, Gavin Kelly, about Minister Fikile Mbalula’s plan to move much of South Africa’s cargo to rail. Kelly said that this was not something new, and had been mentioned a number of times previously on different platforms.

Kelly said that there were most definitely some cargoes that shouldn’t be on the road, but on rail. He said, “They are bulk cargoes, just like these trucks that are transporting coal going over long distances…. that should be on a rail.” In response to whether, if the entire rail infrastructure of South Africa could be upgraded, at the very least could it not be just from the harbour to the sources of coal and ore, Kelly said that that would be a start. He was concerned that Minister Mbalula had not specified what cargo, and which corridors, and more importantly, how the rail infrastructure was going to be protected. He said, “we’ve seen the infrastructure being destroyed, in what, I suppose, you see in Apocalypse films – absolutely devastated.” He said, “if we’re going to put money into these railway lines and into these infrastructure developments that are going to make this possible, how are we going to protect it?” He also questioned where the finance for the envisioned project would be found.

South Africa has regions that are very mountainous, which would need tunnels built through them.  Kelly said that the country’s topography was ‘difficult’, and that if the idea of moving goods by rail was serious, change was necessary. He said, “Rail needs to become reliable. It needs to become efficient. It needs to become secure. It needs to be accessible.” He added that this was going to be a challenge.

Meanwhile, the last few weeks, have seen a spotlight shone accidents involving trucks. Kelly said, “on the one hand, it’s a knee jerk reaction, which is fine in the heat of the moment. More importantly…. whether it’s a truck driver or a bus driver, or a private motor vehicle driver…. we need to hold people accountable for what they do, or for what they cause to happen.” He explained, “if these truck drivers are, for example, having accidents because they’re so tired, and they don’t get rest, then we need to deal with it. If these accidents are happening, because the vehicles aren’t roadworthy, we need to deal with it.”

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