Reuters Africa reports that South African logistics group Transnet and Swaziland Railways announced that they have agreed to build a new rail line via Swaziland that would ease congestion on a main coal export line and boost trade in the region.
The total project, estimated to cost up to 17 billion rand, includes the construction of a new 146 km rail line from Lothair in South Africa to Sidvokodvo in Swaziland, as well as upgrades to existing infrastructure linking the new line with ports in South Africa and Mozambique.
The project could provide a major boost for Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarchy which analysts said has been run for years almost as a personal fiefdom by King Mswati III and now teeters on the brink of financial collapse. South Africa has offered a bailout loan but Swaziland has refused, seeing attached conditions calling for political reforms as too stringent, government officials said. Transnet chief executive Brian Molefe said with the Swazi line, which will take all general freight off the coal export line, and other upgrades he expected capacity to rise sharply. "That should take our capacity on the coal line beyond 91 million tonnes, closer to 100 million tonnes," he said.
Construction of South Africa's first new rail line in several decades and upgrades will begin next year and are expected to be completed by 2016. A large portion of the costs, up to 12 billion rand, would be covered by South Africa and the remainder by Swaziland. Gideon Mahlalela, chief executive of Swaziland Railways, said there would be funding available for the project despite the impoverished country's economic woes. "The banks are actually coming to us. We are not going to them. They say they have money available," he said.
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