Rail requires smart innovation - Transnet CEO

Cape Town - Sustaining rail operations in South Africa requires smart innovations and cost effectiveness, group CEO of Transnet Siyabonga Gama said at the opening of the 11th International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA) Conference on Monday.

Transnet has been part of the IHHA since its inception thirty-five years ago, as one of its founding members. The conference was last hosted in South Africa about twenty years ago.

"The future direction of our planet depends heavily on what impetus we place on infrastructure development," cautioned Gama.

He pointed out that the Initiative on Shaping the Future of Long-Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development of the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently said there was a $1trn (R12.97trn) annual global shortfall for infrastructure, compared to a $4trn (R51.88trn) demand. 

"Closing this gap is paramount if the world is to stay on a path to inclusive economic growth," said Gama.

This was why strategic dialogue, which allows for the expression of long-term vision, was important.

Gama said this dialogue had to deal with infrastructure, development and their benefits to society, as well as how to share these benefits with everyone.

"As members of the International Heavy Haul Association - dedicated as we are to the pursuit of excellence in heavy haul railway operations - we have a significant role to play in ensuring we bring our ideas to fruition," said Gama. "South Africa remains a meaningful player in the railway community - both locally and abroad."


Gama said the conference was a platform to discuss innovative solutions to enable and improve operational efficiencies.

"The commodity market, as we all know, is volatile. Today’s high yield commodities are tomorrow’s low yielding commodities," he said.  

"We are, therefore, required to use rail efficiently today in response to the commodity market."

Gama said that rail was still the most cost-effective and safest mode of transporting bulk freight for longer distances in South Africa.

"We need to save our roads, reduce carbon emissions and protect the future of our children," he said. 
"My desire is that this conference will promote initiatives aimed at efficiently utilising new technologies and existing assets."

Skills development

Gama also focused on the importance of skills development.

"Our continent is facing a major challenge when it comes to skills development, especially in technical fields. It is our responsibility to ensure that we uplift our economies through skills development," said Gama.  

"We must use platforms such as this conference to inspire and facilitate skills development by stimulating research, publish innovations and ensure continuous improvement initiatives."

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