Revitalisation of branch lines in South Africa : a long-term view for sustainability

Simpson, Zane P. ; Havenga, Jan H. (2010-11-30)

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CITATION: Simpson, Z. & Havenga, J. H. 2010. Revitalisation of branch lines in South Africa : a long-term view for sustainability. Journal of Transport and Supply Chain Management, 4(1):243-254. doi: 10.4102/jtscm.v4i1.70.


South Africa’s national railway management is considering the further closing of a number of branch lines due to profitability pressures from stakeholders. This paper cautions against a myopic approach to such closures. Traditionally these decisions are driven by short-term profit motives realised through resulting core line densification. The research presented in this paper demonstrates the importance of 1) taking cognisance of potential branch lines flows; 2) considering freight transport externalities and road usage costs; and 3) understanding long-term demand, in informing closure decisions. The research results reveal considerable volume opportunities for branch lines which, if captured, will significantly reduce both the direct transport costs for this traffic as well as externality charges for the economy. This will therefore not only render rural economies more competitive but also enable the provision of more sustainable freight transport to these communities. The research approach will be of value to researchers in both developed and developing economies to inform the continuous debate regarding rail rationalisation and rail revival.

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