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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Lights will stay on despite Transnet’s coal line shutdown – Eskom

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe says they will use trucks to transport coal to power stations, and they have 'a buffer of coal stockpile'.

As Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) prepares to embark on a nine-day shutdown of the coal export line, which includes some parts of the Eskom coal-loading zone in Witbank, for maintenance from next week, the power utility yesterday issued assurances that this “will not affect power supply”.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said the power utility would use trucks instead of rail to transport coal to power stations.

“Due to TFR having informed us of the shutdown timeously, we have ensured that there are more trucks. I also want to assure all our customers that Majuba, Hendrina and other power stations are currently not experiencing problems,” said Phasiwe. “We now have a buffer of coal stockpile.”

According to TFR spokesperson Mike Asefovitz, the maintenance shutdown of the company’s coal export line was “an annual exercise necessitated by the fact that, on the coal line, there are sections where infrastructure work can’t be carried out without stopping the entire train service”.

He explained: “This is to ensure that the company tackles its maintenance backlog and replaces old, obsolete and problematic infrastructure as part of sustainability of the business.”

This, he said, would make it possible “to accelerate the major capital expansion and upgrade projects in line with the expected volume growth”.

TFR’s clean-up operation – affecting all export coal flows through Richards Bay Coal Terminal, Richards Bay Terminal, Grinrod, Richards Bay Port Terminal and some mills, will lead to a temporary stoppage of train operations on the coal line, also geared to transporting chrome, timber, chemicals and coke.

“TFR is working closely with customers in planning for the execution of the shutdown programme to realise the long-term benefits that go with it,” Asefovitz said.

“This is a maintenance plan for work that cannot be done during normal operations. Rail network employees will work at the sites where the maintenance is going to be done.

“Specific activities to be carried out during the shutdown period include turnout replacement, formation rehabilitation, sleeper replacement, tamping [stabilising of the ballast stones under the sleepers], screening [cleaning and removing of obsolete ballast stones) and sub stations overhaul.”

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