Transnet train collision shuts coal export line

Trains on South Africa’s main coal export line collided early on 14 January, shutting the route that’s been plagued with issues, according to state logistics company Transnet.

Workers are trying to clear the two trains that were derailed in the incident that occurred outside Richards Bay, Transnet said in a statement on Monday. No serious injuries have been reported, and the accident is under investigation.

The disruption comes as Transnet struggles to improve its performance, particularly on the line that transports coal from mines in Mpumalanga to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), the biggest facility of its kind on the continent.

Volumes have dropped as the state-owned company mitigates derailments, equipment shortages, vandalism, corruption and poor weather.

Companies including Thungela Resources, Glencore and Sasol exported 50.4 million tons of coal through RBCT in 2022, the lowest volume in three decades.

Transnet is also in financial trouble. Treasury agreed to provide a R47 billion ($2.5 billion) support package to the company, making about half of the amount accessible to meet immediate debt obligations.