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The reopening was marked by a ceremony at the East London industrial development zone, attended by the Premier of Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane.
During the celebrations, TFR Chief Executive Sizakele Mzimela announced that a request for proposals would be published in November, with a private sector operator expected to be appointed by June 2022.
As part of a strategy to encourage modal shift from road to rail, TFR has invested R26m in reviving the east-west line, which connects the Johannesburg – East London route at Blaney with the De Aar – Gqerbha (Port Elizabeth) main line at Cookhouse. The rehabilitation work was completed in March, with test running starting in June.
According to TFR, local businesses had called for the reinstatement of the link, which provides a more direct connection between the two coastal cities, potentially halving the journey time between Gqerbha and East London. It is expected to facilitate the transport of fast-moving consumer goods, drinks, cement and containers of auto parts between the East London and the Coega industrial development zones, with an estimated 30 000 tonnes of freight expected to use the line in the first year.
Reopening is expected to support future growth in the Eastern Cape manufacturing sector, as well as the export of agricultural produce and minerals. Provincial authorities hope that shifting more freight traffic from road to rail would reduce the impact of heavy lorries on the local road infrastructure, leading to lower maintenance costs.
The reopened connection will also provide a diversionary route to and from Gqeberha in the event of any disruption to the main line via De Aar.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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