State-owned Transnet is investigating methods to deal with unpredictable and severe weather patterns, which have negatively affected the railway network during and after cyclone Eloise hit Southern Africa in late January, resulting in heavy rainfall across South Africa.
Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), in particular, has experienced disruptions in the past weeks, as a result of severe damage caused by excessive rain following cyclone Eloise. The rain caused unusual disruptions on the heavy-haul lines, including the iron-ore and the manganese channel, leading to a number of “wash-away” incidents.
Wash-aways occur when there are sudden heavy rains, which scours away the base of the railway track, leaving the rail and sleepers hanging without any support. This can lead to derailments or serious incidents, Transnet notes.
Following several wash-away incidents, TFR has had to shut down a number of railway lines to repair and replace culverts that are used to facilitate the channelling of water in one direction. Such unplanned train stoppages result in volume losses and negatively affect Transnet customers, the company states.
Transnet is implementing methods to deal with such incidents as part of its efforts to improve the reliability of its delivery of freight for customers.
The company also notes that increased changes and unpredictability in weather patterns mean that improved measures need to be implemented to avoid damage to the railway network and port infrastructure, in future.
As part of preventive measures, TFR will conduct topography and hydrological surveys in all areas susceptible to heavy rains, the outcomes of which will be incorporated into the shutdowns that occur yearly.
TFR also carries out inspections governed by the manual for infrastructure condition assessments. This occurs at least twice a year before winter and summer and ensures that the culverts are cleaned of any debris, vegetation and blockages before heavy rains.
Another measure involves physical inspections of railways using trolleys – small rail vehicles.