Rail Links Along The MDC

The MDC offers the shortest rail links between South Africa's industrial and commercial heartland, Gauteng, as well as the Nortwest, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa and Gaberone in Botswana and a deep water port. Comparative rail distances are demonstrated in the following chart.

Comparative Rail Distances in km
From Maputo Durban R'Bay
Gauteng SA

Johannesburg (City Deep)

581 720 652
Pretoria (Rosslyn) 574 786 712
Limpopo SA
Phalaborwa 374 1,083 895
Polokwane 550 935 802
Tzaneen 452 1,160 972
Mpumalanga SA
Lydenburg 443 856 668
Nelspruit 219 830 642
Witbank 469 801 627
Northwest SA
Rustenburg 661 874 794
Gaberone 1,027 1,170 1,104
Matsapha, Manzini 228 544 371
Bulawayo 1,083 1,880 1,800
Gweru 967 1,764 1,684
Source: FTW 02 March 2007 and Spoornet Rail Distance Calculator

Rail links along the Corridor are set to get a major boost in redevelopment following the revival of development co-operation between the South African rail operator - Spoornet, and the Mozambican rail operator - CFM on February 15, 2007. At present the bulk of freight being transported along the Corridor consists mainly of South African coal exports en route to the Matola Coal Terminal, however, with congestion at South Africa's busiest port, Durban reaching critical levels, importers and exporters are increasingly looking towards Maputo as a supplementary port.


Historical Overview

In August 1995 the Ministers of Transport of Mozambique and South African agreed to re-establish the railway link between Gauteng Province in SA and Maputo. In December 1997 a Spoornet led consortium was named the preferred bidder for the concession to operate the Ressano Garcia Railway Line. In February 1999 negotiations for the development of the railway line broke down.

It took a further four years before things got back on track again, when in December 2002 a concession was awarded to an international consortium led by NLPI (New Limpopo Bridge Project Investments), together with Spoornet and CFM, the national rail operators of South Africa and Mozambique respectively for a 15-year Concession Agreement to privatise the railway from the South African border through to the ports of Maputo and Matola. The intent was to invest approx. USD 10 mil. to rehabilitate the railway line, modernising and improving it to the same standard as the South African network and providing a seamless rail link along the Maputo Corridor. The company projected that freight traffic will increase from 2.9m tonnes per annum to more than 6.8m, and feasibility studies for electrifying the line were to be carried out if justified by future volumes.

In November 2005 the Mozambican government cancelled the rail concession, opting instead to invest for CFM to invest USD 12 mil. to rehabilitate the line. MCLI's commitment to act in the spirit of a Private-Public Partnership allowed for our Rail Focus Workgroup to be regularly updated on the progress. This workgroup subsequently operates under the Mpumalanga Freight Logistics Strategy (MFLF) as our greater co-operation with the Public sector was cemented with the South African National Department of Transport (DoT) through the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Roads and Transport, after the DoT finally agreed to become the Government representative on our board by becoming the ninth MCLI Founder Member in February 2006.

The long delayed rehabilitation of the railway line received an injection of confidence in October 2006 when CFM and Spoornet signed an agreement of co-operation on the railway line, which culminated in the CFM / Spoornet Road Show of 15 February 2007 in partnership with MCLI, where the CEO's of both companies announced their Corridor Rail Strategy to various stakeholder sectors in Nelspruit.


The Track Ahead

Rail along the Corridor is one of the key focus areas in the development of the Maputo Corridor as the major transportation route linking South Africa's northern provinces and Swaziland wiith its nearest deep sea port. It is an importatn issue to all stakeholders and a great deal of work still needs to be done to maximise operational throughput and efficiency.

It is in the interests of all stakeholders that the success of MCLI's Private Public Partnership Forums, through the MFLF Rail Focus Workgroup, continues. This requires active consultation, responsiveness and transparency on behalf of the railway operators and government as well as the active participation and feedback of stakeholders. If you are a stakeholder who is not already participating and whose future business may benefit, become involved.

Maputo and Matola are also served by cross-border rail services to and from Swaziland via the Lomahasha / Namaacha Border Post and Zimbabwe by MCLI Member Swazi Rail.