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Theft disrupts rail line serving Durban port – causing major disruption



theft disrupting Durban port's rail line

The rail line from Africa’s biggest container port to South Africa’s wealthiest province ran at 25% of its capacity over the past week. Polity reported that this reduced service was due to vandalism, rail damage, and theft disrupting Durban port’s rail line.

The 688 km line from the Port of Durban to Gauteng province only operated for 36 hours over six days, Transnet, the State-owned entity that runs the line, said in a letter to its customers seen by Bloomberg. The company confirmed the document.

“For the past week, there have been a total of 39 security-related incidents targeting critical areas on the mainline resulting in the closure of the line,” Transnet said in the letter, adding that heavy rain caused two further closures.

Criminals, often working in armed gangs, are targeting South Africa’s State-owned infrastructure, ranging from freight-rail lines to electricity-generating plants. That’s contributed to long power cuts and curbed shipments of crucial exports such as coal.

The container-rail line between Durban and Gauteng — a province that includes the biggest city of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria — is a crucial route for the country’s imports. It also transports cars from automotive plants and other manufactured goods to the port.


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Transnet has repaired some of the vandalised equipment and replaced some stolen gear. Eighteen people have been arrested, and there have been 15 separate recoveries of stolen equipment, the company said.

As a result of the disruption, 58 trains are either stuck on the line or in staging yards, Transnet said.

The ongoing theft and vandalism targeting the rail line significantly disrupt South Africa’s economy and logistical operations. The disruptions hamper the transportation of goods and imports and contribute to power shortages and overall infrastructure instability.

Transnet and law enforcement agencies are working together to address the issue and apprehend the criminals responsible. In addition, increased security measures, repairs, and there have been equipment replacements to restore the rail line’s functionality and mitigate future incidents.


Efforts are also underway to strengthen the protection of State-owned infrastructure across the country. The government prioritises safeguarding critical assets and the uninterrupted flow of trade and services.

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Picture: Twitter / PauloSergioMDC

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