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Colossal Concrete Products reopens plant to manufacture railway sleepers

5th November 2023

     

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Southern Africa’s largest manufacturer of railway sleepers Colossal Concrete Products has reopened its mothballed De Aar factory in the Northern Cape, following the conclusion of a one-year contract with State-owned rail transport company Transnet Freight Rail (TFR).

The Level 1 broad-based black economic empowerment company will supply precast concrete railway sleepers for the parastatal’s national freight rail network upgrade and is in a position to reach its inherent capacity, with the production of one-million railway sleepers a year. The company also has plans to move the manufacturing of all turnout sleepers to the facility.

Strategically located near one of the arterial railway junctions connecting the Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kimberley lines, the De Aar manufacturing facility is expected to provide a much-needed boost to the regional economy through job creation.

Colossal Concrete executive director Chris (CK) Klagsbrun notes that the creation of about 50 jobs is one of the most important elements in the rejuvenation of the facility, as De Aar, like many areas in the Northern Cape, has been economically depressed in recent years.

Jobs include mixer operators, team leaders, boom scrapers, line feeders, crane operators, boiler operators, wire feeders, forklift drivers, grinder operators, wire cutters, slot washers, preppers and quality controllers.

“Preference is being given to those previously employed in the above positions at our De Aar facility, and I am confident that a fair percentage of former employees will be re-employed,” he advises. 

The reopening of the facility is also expected to provide additional upstream and downstream manufacturing and supply opportunities.

This will pave the way for growth in South Africa and beyond, according to Colossal Concrete CEO Gwen Mahuma-Madida.

“Africa is rich in natural resources, but much-needed growth and progress are often hampered by a lack of finance and the required infrastructure. Colossal Concrete Products understands the pivotal importance of infrastructure development and the impact that this has on the economic development of any country. In line with our precast concrete manufacturing capacity, skills and our pan-African growth strategy, Colossal can play a significant part in the roll-out of rail, civils and general infrastructure development – improving the overall prosperity of the continent,” she says.

Recognised internationally as one of the world’s most innovative and diverse concrete sleeper producers, the company has a highly experienced research and development division having developed more than 40 rail-related products.

“We are still the only company locally that has such a large range of railway products. To retain that leadership position is critical. While our competitors do manufacture a selective range of main line sleepers, we are the only ones to make the entire range,” says Mahuma-Madida.

While the TFR contract has been the catalyst for the reopening of the De Aar facility, there are now further plans to keep the operation sustainable.

Colossal also manufactures precast concrete products, including culverts, poles and masts, for use in industries such as mining, civil engineering, construction and renewable energy.

“The acquisition of an adjoining property in De Aar will assist us in growing our footprint within the renewable energy space, which is on the cusp of significant growth following the publication of the final draft of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Masterplan in July this year,” highlights Mahuma-Madida.

She explains that the De Aar facility is close to the current hub of renewable energy projects in Northern Cape and is expected to be pivotal in supplying products such as precast wind turbine towers.

The plant is also strategically and operationally well placed to fill the gap left by the closure of companies serving the Northern Cape construction sector, which was forced to source precast products from Gauteng and other regions, highlights Mahuma-Madida.

“Therefore, once we have a solid base and increasing revenue, we will resume marketing to the civil engineering and construction sector once again, selling our culverts, pipes and more.”

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